To Willie Galick, basketball isn't just a game. It's a vocation, and like any job, it can get difficult.
Two straight one-point losses, a three-game losing streak and eighth place in the Big West Conference will make coming to work more challenging.
So, when life handed Galick and his teammates a sour lemon, they made a sweet drink.
Galick scored 19 points and Rashaun McLemore scored 14 points to lead the Matadors past UC Santa Barbara, 76-69, on Saturday night in a Big West Conference game on The Matadome.
"We're still here," Galick said after the Matadors (8-13, 3-5) wrapped up the first half of conference play. "Even if we have only four players in the locker room, we're playing."
Galick was referring to Seattle University's recent game against Washington, but it's appropos here because Northridge was without Lenny Daniel, who on Friday was indefinitely suspended for attitude and conduct detrimental to the team. Daniel is the second-leading scorer (11.2 points per game) and the leading rebounder (7.9 per game) and leading shot-blocker (1.2 per game).
The team learned of Daniels' suspension when they arrived for practice Friday afternoon. Galick likened the news to a player suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
"Our initial reaction was, we're basketball players," Galick said. "These things happen all the time. We know we have to get right back into the gym because this is our office. We can't take a sick day."
After McLemore challenged his teammates to practice hard, they did just that. Then they got some added motivation when Galick heard that the Gauchos (11-8, 6-3) were looking forward to their upcoming game with first-place Pacific.
"When a team's looking ahead, you've got to take advantage," Galick said.
The Northridge game plan was to keep the taller UC Santa Barbara players out of the paint and make them take outside shots. The Gauchos responded by making just ten of 34 three-pointers and shooting 33 percent (18-of-54) from the field.
Gaucho leading scorers James Nunnally and Orlando Johnson combined for 41 points, but UCSB scored only 10 points in the paint, compared to 28 for Northridge.
It didn't even matter that CSUN leading scorer Kenny Daniels was held to three points because others helped.Vincent Cordell made a clutch 3-pointer with 3:09 to play that broke a 60-60 tie and gave the Matadors a lead it never relinquished, and Mark Hill made four free throws in the final 1:05 to help CSUN keep its lead.
"This was a 40-minute effort from start to finish," Head coach Bobby Braswell told reporters. "This was the first time I've seen this group in a while. ... They took a tough loss on Thursday. They took a beating from us (coaches) on Friday. We challenged them, and the guys stepped up."