March 15, 2009

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Rodrigue Mels scored 23 points and Cal State Northridge earned its first NCAA tournament appearance in eight years with a 71-66 win over Pacific in overtime in the Big West Conference tournament final Saturday night.

Mark Hill tied his career high with 15 points and added six assists and five rebounds for the top-seeded Matadors (17-13), who won their first Big West tournament title and qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001, when they won the Big Sky tournament.

Northridge's Tremaine Townsend grabbed 12 rebounds, while Mels was selected the tournament's most valuable player.

Bryan LeDuc scored a career-best 24 points for the third-seeded Tigers (19-12), whose five-game winning streak ended. Michael Kirby added 16 points and Joe Ford grabbed nine rebounds.

With the score tied at 64 in overtime, Rob Haynes made a bank shot with 3:09 left and Mels hit a 3-pointer to give Northridge a 69-64 lead with 1:29 remaining.

Kirby responded with a driving layin with 47.3 seconds left, but missed a 3-pointer that would have tied it with 22 seconds to go. Hill then increased the margin to five points by making two free throws with 14.8 seconds left.

Northridge built an 18-point lead in the first 10 minutes, but Kirby made two free throws to force a 61-61 tie with 5.4 seconds left in regulation.