By Wes McCurtis
Anaheim Calif., November 27, 2016 – CSUN and Portland each entered the Wooden Legacy as Mid-Major underdogs, excited about the opportunity to earn a program defining victory over a Power 5 Conference opponent. However, they each saw their opportunities slip away at Titan Gym and entered the final day winless in tournament play.
After the UCLA Bruins were crowned the 2016 Wooden Legacy Champions on Sunday at Honda Center, the Matadors (2-5) and Pilots (4-2) took the floor in the the seventh place game looking to end their trip on a high note.
CSUN, led by former NBA All-Star Reggie Theus, opened the tournament with a loss to Texas A&M followed by a setback to New Mexico. “I really believe that these games will help us. It’s difficult for me to coach against these teams because we like to go small,” said Theus. “It’s really about the battle.” The Portland Pilots, who are also led by a former NBA star in Terry Porter, began with losses to UCLA and Dayton.
Though much of crowd had cleared the stands after the Championship game, the Matadors and Pilots played with championship intensity. Both teams left it all on the court, but CSUN simply had no answer for the Portland backcourt, led by the tournament’s leading scorer Alec Wintering.
Wintering poured in a tournament-high 36 points on 14-of-20 shooting, while Jazz Johnson added 26 points to carry the Pilots to a convincing 96-78 victory over the Matadors. When asked about the performance of his guards Porter said, “I foresee them being some of our main scorers. We have an opportunity to really take advantage of their skillset.”
The Pilots have a lot to look forward to this season and believe that this tournament will help get them going in the right direction under their first year head coach. “I thought our guys competed,” said Porter. “Tonight it was just them continuing to come back and respond after two earlier games.”
CSUN, predicted to finish third in the Big West Conference this season, left the 2016 Wooden Legacy with three double-digit loses. With a tough non-conference schedule ahead, the Matadors need to pick it up defensively if they are looking to turn things around.
CSUN gave up over 90 points to all three tournament opponents, including a tournament record 105 points in their loss to New Mexico. “In all honesty I thought we got our butts kicked,” said Theus. “I’m pretty sure that we were the underdogs in every game. I’m pretty sure we battled in every game except for one game. We had a really stern and straightforward conversation in the locker room just now, you know guys have to understand there is a lot of basketball left.”