DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 9, 3:35 p.m. (pt)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Worthington Arena (7,250) -- Bozeman, Montana. Television: None. Home Record: Fullerton 0-0, Montana State 0-0. Away Record: Fullerton 0-0, Montana State 0-0. Neutral Record: Fullerton 0-0, Montana State 0-0. Conference Record: Fullerton 0-0, Montana State 0-0. Series Record: Montana State leads, 4-3.
GAME NOTES: The Titans first and only season under interim head coach Andy Newman in 2012-13 was not successful, as they went 14-18 overall (6-12 in the Big West Conference), a seven-win decrease from the previous year. After serving as an assistant at Arizona State for seven seasons, Dedrique Taylor was named Fullerton's head coach in the offseason.
Montana State finished last season just 13-17 overall, but at 10-10 in the Big Sky Conference, it matched its highest league win total in Brad Huse's seven- year tenure as head coach. The Bobcats closed out the regular season with wins in three of their last four games, only to lose in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament to Northern Colorado, 69-56.
Fullerton won the most recent matchup with Montana State, 80-66 on Feb. 8, 2012, but the Bobcats hold a 4-3 advantage in the all-time series.
Not only is Taylor taking over an underachieving team in Fullerton, but he will be without last season's top three scorers in Kwame Vaughn (18.4 ppg), D.J. Seeley (17.9 ppg) and Sammy Yeager (15.8 ppg). With most of the offensive production gone, there's an opportunity for someone to emerge. A pair of transfers, Michael Williams (San Francisco) and Steve McClellan (ULM), are eligible after sitting out last season, and both were adequate scorers while with their previous teams. Of the returning Titans, Alex Harris (22 points, 13 rebounds), Jared Brandon (20 points) and Josh Gentry (19 points) were all impressive in their recent exhibition bout against Redlands.
Montana State welcomes three starters back to the fold, although last year's top scorer Christian Moon (13.8 ppg) is not among them. Flavien Davis (11.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg) should see more scoring chances after making 50 percent of his field goal attempts in 2012-13. Antonio Biglow (11.0 ppg) is a mainstay in the backcourt and has proven to be a strong perimeter defender (1.8 spg) as well. Paul Egwuonwu (9.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.0 bpg) was especially strong in the paint down the stretch last season, averaging 10.0 rebounds per game over the last six outings. Of the newcomers, freshman Stephan Holm appears most ready to contribute right away after dropping 20 points in the Bobcats' exhibition game versus Dickinson State.
Fullerton will likely receive a spark of life this season under its new head coach, but with such a large talent turnover, it's hard to imagine the team coming together this early. As the more experienced team opening the season on its home court, expect Montana State to prevail.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montana State 70, Cal State Fullerton 67