Northern Arizona: My View

Cal State Fullerton easily handles NAU 83-67 at Titan Gym on Saturday night. The Titans dominated the first half and then coasted to a non-conference victory. NAU beat Fullerton by 17 points earlier this year at Flagstaff.

Revenge is always sweet but it's hard to have much bitterness against Northern Arizona when the real culprit in their loss in Flagstaff was the altitude. That became especially apparent when the Lumberjacks came to Titan Gym. NAU is very one-dimensional. When they don't hit shots, both from long range and the free throw line, they are not going to win.

As has become the norm, here are the top reasons Cal State Fullerton returned the favor by beating NAU by 15 points:

Little Bobby Brown
The only thing little about Bobby Brown is his nickname. Sorry folks but as long as LB keeps playing like this and the Titans keep winning he is going to be the number one reason every time. Sure the stats are good but what doesn't show us in the boxscore is the fact that whenever the Titans are in need a of a basket, he delivers.

He is also the only player keeping defenses honest by hitting threes on a consistent basis. Simply put, LB looks like a boy but plays like a man.

Basketball is a team game
Make no mistake, this game was won in the first half and it was the best I have seen the Titans playing as a team. Everyone who entered the game, played hard and contributed.

Pape Sow started strong, LB hit some key outside shots, Yaphett King hit a few shots and played with the intensity which has been lacking, Brian Pruitt had another strong outing and on down the line. Every player had good moments.

Even Zakee Smith and Babacar Camara despite little playing time. Zakee is on a short lease right now, just as a senior should be. He struggled when first brought in and was taken out after two quick turnovers (the boxscore credits him with one, but he had two). When he returned, he played very solid dishing out two assists in 6 minutes.

As for Babacar, he also struggled early with a quick exit. Like Zakee, he returned and showed some nice post moves and a couple baskets in 6 minutes. But the thing that was encouraging was the emotion he displayed. It's going to be hard to take away from Pape's minutes but I can see a need for the twin towers in future games.

It goes both ways
If it takes adjustment for the Titans to play 7000 feet higher than the same must hold true in reverse for NAU. Their strength is shooting but that was not obvious during this game. They missed a lot of wide open shots and you can't credit defense when a team shoots 41.7% from the free throw line, including 5 of 12 in the second half.

Low altitude? Well, it has to be something.

Cleaning the glass
13 more rebounds (40-27) in a game is huge and the Titans have been doing a very good job in this department all year. Sacramento State is the only team who has out-rebounded the Titans in fives games so far and Cal State Fullerton currently has a +22 margin (202-180) in this area.

Nice numbers here and something that needs to continue.


More thoughts
If we continue to be cold from the outside -- LB can not do it alone -- something is going to have to be done to help Pape get more that 8 or 9 shots a game. The good news is we have won two games in a row without the best from Pape.

Yes it is true Pape had 14 points and 9 rebounds but he also had 4 turnovers and was 2 of 8 from the line. We also has at least three other turnovers trying to get him the ball. We need to do something different here.

Possibilities include letting Pape get and shoot the ball from further than three or four feet out. While his current free throw shooting woes would indicate differently, Pape is a good shooter and needs more -- or at least some -- attempts from the outside.

Turnovers are another area which needs to improve. 16 turnovers against an un-athletic team is about six too many. This should improve with more practice time against a zone defense and less trying to force the ball down low.

The second half zone which NAU used was very effective and will definitely be something more and more teams will be using to contain Pape.

Overall, a good game, especially in the first half. 2-3 is pretty much what most of us expected at this point but there is still much work to be done to get us our first winning season in 10 years.