CSUN spoils coaching debut of Westmont’s Boucher, 97-79
A quick start and a solid second half weren’t enough for Westmont College’s men’s basketball team in its first game of the Landon Boucher Era.
Cal State Northridge, which tied UCSB for second place in last year’s Big West Conference race, defeated the Warriors 97-79 at the Matadome on Wednesday.
The game marked the season opener for the Matadors, although the Warriors are counting it as an exhibition. Boucher, a 2012 graduate of Westmont, was making his debut as the successor of John Moore, who stepped down last spring after 27 years as head coach.
Senior guard Abram Carrasco, last season’s Golden State Athletic Conference Player of the Year, had a game-high 28 points on 9-for-20 shooting and six assists. He made 3-of-8 three-pointers, but his Westmont teammates hit just 5-of-22.
“This team spreads it out and shoots the three really well,” CSUN coach Mark Gottfried said of the Warriors. “If they got it going from the three-point line, they could be dangerous. We made them put the ball on the ground.”
Ajay Singh, a 6-foot-6 transfer from Notre Dame de Namur, got Westmont off to its fast start by making three baskets during the first three minutes. His layup put the Warriors ahead 10-5. CSUN, however, used a 15-4 run during the next five minutes to jump ahead for good, 20-14.
Jared Brown’s jumper stalled the Matadors momentarily, but CSUN used two more spurts to surge to a 47-25 margin at the 3:20 mark. Brown finished with 13 points.
Westmont, missing injured three-point shooter Cade Roth, also missed its first eight attempts from distance. Carrasco finally made the Warriors’ first three with just 1:34 left in the first half.
Freshman Amound Anderson answered with a three of his own to keep the Matadors rolling. They sank 8-of-18 threes in the first half and 13-for-34 in the game (38.2%). Lance Coleman made four of them while scoring all 22 of his points in the first half.
CSUN led 59-31 at halftime, out-shooting the Warriors 48.8% to 44.4% and out-rebounding them 28-13 while gaining a 15-4 edge in second-chance points. The Matadors also forced Westmont into 11 first-half turnovers.
The Warriors cleaned up their offense in the second half, committing just one more turnover while out-scoring the Matadors 48-36. Back-to-back threes by Brown and Carrasco fueled a 13-4 run that got them within 63-44.
CSUN, however, hit a trio of threes during a span of just 54 seconds — two by T.J. Starks and another by Alex Merkviladze — to hold off Westmont.
Merkviladze, a 6-9 and 225-pound freshman from the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, finished with 20 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
“I really liked how we played,” Gottfried said. “Our 26 assists jump off the page. We played well together. We have a lot of younger players but they’re not afraid, and I like that.
“This team has a nice chance to become a really good basketball team.”
Westmont is scheduled to play another exhibition at Division 1 Pacific on Friday, Dec. 4. It will make its regular-season debut at home on Dec. 12 against Antelope Valley.
Pacific won its season opener by defeating the Big West’s UC Riverside, 66-60, on Wednesday. The game was to be the head coaching debut of UCSB graduate Mike Magpayo, but he rushed back to Riverside on Tuesday to be with his wife, Caroline, who gave birth to their first child.
Also on Wednesday, defending Big West champion UC Irvine lost at Pepperdine, 86-72. UCSB, which will make its season debut at home at 4 p.m. Sunday against Saint Katherine’s, is scheduled to visit Pepperdine on Dec. 19.