ST. GEORGE — Utah Tech men’s basketball fell 80-75 to Cal State Northridge on the road Monday night.

Utah Tech men’s basketball coach Jon Judkins talks strategy against Idaho during a 63-62 loss to the Vandals at Burns Arena, Dec. 9, 2023 | Photo by Stan Plewe, Utah Tech Athletics, St. George News

Noa Gonsalves scored 18 points to lead the Trailblazers (5-5 overall, 2-0 in Western Athletic Conference), shooting 6-12 from the floor while adding three rebounds, two assists and two steals.

Utah Tech coach Jon Judkins said the Matadors “play extremely hard” and “are really physical,” which contributed to the loss.

“Our man-to-man defense just was not there tonight. The zone got us back into the game but we just struggled to keep them in front,” Judkins said in a news release. “Late in the game we were aggressive, started getting downhill, kicking it out for open shots … one that I thought we should have won but we’ve just got to be tougher.

After a Jaylen Searles layup opened the scoring, CSUN (7-3 overall, 0-0 in Big West Conference) went on a 12-3 run to take an early seven-point lead into the first media timeout. Aric Demings connected on a triple with 15:32 on the clock to ignite a period in which Utah Tech would out-score the hosts 14-6, taking a one-point lead thanks to a Searles triple off an out-of-bounds play with 9:32 left in the first half.

Caleb Stearman made some noise just two minutes later, finishing a Searles lob for a two-handed alley-oop jam through contact for his second bucket in as many possessions before the Matadors went on another 8-0 run to regain the lead with less than four minutes remaining in the half. Gonsalves hit four shots at the line down the stretch before a Demings jumper late in the half put Utah Tech ahead by one at the break.

Box score for the Utah Tech-CSUN men’s basketball game, Dec. 11, 2023 | Image courtesy of Utah Tech Athletics, St. George News

CSUN opened the second half with a 19-3 run while out-rebounding the Trailblazers 15-3 before a Gonsalves triple with 11:31 on the clock settled the offense at 54-43 in favor of the hosts.

That bucket sparked a quick 8-1 run by Utah Tech, with Tanner Christensen connecting on a pair of free throws to bring the game within eight points at the 10:19 mark.

That offensive momentum continued as UT continued to chip away at the CSUN lead. Christensen added more free throws to cut the lead to six before Demings twice brought the game within four with a three-pointer and pair of free throws, the latter of which connected with 4:51 on the clock.

Utah Tech’s comeback continued off the hands of David Elliott, who splashed home a triple with 3:33 remaining to pull within two points. After a defensive stop, the game was tied at 70 when Christensen banked home a right-handed layup just 43 seconds later.

The 6-10 center would once again tie the game with two more free throws with 1:50 on the clock but CSUN responded, outscoring UT 10-2 down the stretch to seal the 80-75 result.

Christensen paired 13 points with eight boards and added three blocks while Searles scored 11. Demings finished his outing with a line of 13 points, five rebounds and seven assists while Olayinka tied a career-high for blocks (five) to go with 10 points and six rebounds on 5-8 shooting.

Stearman scored a career-high seven points in seven minutes played while David Elliott scored three points in 12 minutes off the bench as the Trailblazers finished with five double-digit scorers for the first time since a victory over Chapman on Dec. 9.

“Tanner was an animal those final five minutes, but he’s got to do that the whole entire game,”  Judkins said. “David gave us a little spark and I thought Caleb did a really good job for us tonight as well … Larry had a good game for us but he’s just got to hit his foul shots.”

As a team Utah Tech shot 26-62 (41.9%) from the field, hitting 10 three-pointers and 13 shots at the line. With 13 offensive rebounds, the team finished with 21 second-chance points and 28 in the paint, using eight blocks and six steals to force 13 Matador turnovers while scoring 15 points off turnovers, also adding eight points in transition.

Click here for the box score.

Trailblazer men’s basketball returns to action on Saturday, hosting the North Dakota Fighting Hawks. Tipoff at Burns Arena is scheduled for 7 p.m.