March 13, 2009
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Reserve guard Rodrigue Mels' game-high 28 points included 16 in the second half as top-seeded Cal State Northridge broke a halftime deadlock and advanced to the championship game of the 2009 Big West Conference Tournament with a 67-60 semifinal-round victory over No. 4 UC Santa Barbara Friday evening at the Anaheim Convention Center.
"We acknowledge a determined team and a determined head coach," said Gaucho head coach Bob Williams of the Matadors and their head coach Bobby Braswell. "There was too much Rodrigue Mels and Tremaine Townsend. Their athleticism was too much for us. They have overcome a great deal this year and are very deserving of where they are."
With the scoreline knotted at intermission, 30-30, Cal State Northridge opened the second half with a 14-7 run before a layup from Gaucho forward Jaime Serna and a three-pointer from guard Jordan Weiner helped cut the Matador lead to a single point. The single-digit disadvantage was as close as UC Santa Barbara would get, however, as Cal State Northridge eventually compiled a 62-52 lead with two minutes remaining. The loss marked the second time in as many seasons that the Gauchos had been ousted from the tournament in the semifinals.
"I admired how we competed," Williams said. "Credit their zone, because we struggled with it, but we went from a 2-7 record to playing in the semifinals of the league tournament. We started to improve after a brutal loss to Cal State Fullerton (lost a 22-point second half lead). We had a real gut-check and won the next game at UC Irvine and things really started turning at that point.
Devine's 16 points gives him 1,608 in his career, third all-time at UCSB.