Titans Come out On Top Again

OPINION: Kwame Vaughn scored 21 points and D. J. Seeley added 20 Monday night to lead Cal State Fullerton to a 78-73 Big West Conference victory over Pacific. This was the Titans seventh win in a row but now go on the road to face a couple of the big boys of the conference in UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly SLO.

Love our chances in a close game...

...and love Kwame Vaughn and D.J. Seeley when the game is on the line...

But the real question is can we hang with the better teams during the first 35 minutes to make it a close game? We will soon find out the answer on Thursday and Saturday when we play UCSB and Cal Poly SLO on the road. Talk about your barometer games. A split would go a long ways, confidence-wise, for the team.

Offense played really well the entire game. Hard to have any complaints when you shoot 54% and 48% from three. We also did great on the boards, for the most part, out rebounding them by 12. Didn't seem like that much while watching.

I see two huge issues going forward:

  1. Defense
  2. Lack of a bench

Fundamentally some of the players just don't know how to position their feet. In addition, too much playing defense with their hands and too many times getting beat off the dribble.

But in this game, the post defense was almost our downfall. Omondi Amoke, Orane Chin and Andre Hardy all struggled on this end. UOP post players scored 39 total points, most of them on uncontested shots, and really should have been more if not for numerous easy misses.

Going in Titans seemed to have gotten a break when 7-1 center Rundell Mauge was out due to injury. Center Khalil Kelley is listed at 6-8 but was only about an inch taller than Amoke so really liked our chances. However, Kelly played a lot taller than he is and seem to have his way whenever he touched the ball. Luckily he missed some easy ones. Amoke did just okay on him and Hardy was way over-matched in his 13 minutes of play (seemed like he was in there a lot more than that). Amoke's short-comings seemed to be that he was playing defense not to foul and not sure that is a good game strategy, which leads to issue No. 2.

The second issue could be fixed but rotation appears to be set in stone. I do think we have a very solid six but having the five starters all play 32+ minutes seems like a red flag to me. I would like to see more of Perry Webster as he brings some good intangibles to the floor and has some good chemistry. I would have no problem with 20+ minutes.

Orlando Brown looked decent but he only played 5 minutes. Could be the face injury or the mask he is wearing but is more likely due to the fact that you have three really good starters and Perry.

Andre Hardy just doesn't look fully recovered from his foot injuries. Could be mental as he jumps a lot higher when no one is around and his defense, which I hear is his strength, just isn't very good. He had four rebounds, not bad, but he had more than a couple balls go through his hands like he had no thumbs. At this point, even Bernard Webb looks like a viable option.

Post defense seems to be a problem because, at least from where I sit, Chin and Amoke are trying to stay out of foul trouble as there is such a big drop-off when they are out of the game. Unfortunately this means we give up a lot of easy baskets. Kelly was such a poor free throw shooter (30%) that there should have been no way he gets off 13 mostly uncontested shots. Again, this is just my theory.

Based on these observations, perhaps the answer to both issues is the same: We have some talent on the bench, just need to unleash it. 10 minutes may go a long ways to taking this team from the middle of the pack to contending for a championship.


Post-game Quotes

"This game should give us more confidence," said Coach Bob Burton. "But that's the way we've been playing all season -- one minute we look really good and the next minute we are really bad. But the starters have stepped up an the end of the games. They get stops and score at the other end.

"This game was there for anyone to take.

"We shot 63 percent in the first half and were only up by 2 which was scary. But we had 13 turnovers in the first half and only three in the second half."

"I thought we played a good last 10 minutes of the first half and played very well in the first 10 minutes of the second half," said head coach Bob Thomason. "They (Fullerton) made big shots when they had to and got the win."

"We played well tonight," coach Bob Thomason said. "We missed some easy shots early, but we hustled and we got loose balls. There were moments we played as well as we have all year."

"I was in (Vaughn's) face and he made a tough shot," McCloud said. "I was right there. That would have been a real game-changer if he missed that shot."