34-point victories don't come around too often however, while fun to watch, nothing unexpected happened on Saturday as Cal State Fullerton defeated NAIA opponent Hope International 107-73.
There are many things that the Titans can improve on between now and Big West Conference play with the most obvious being defense. Allowing any team to shoot 52% shooting from the floor and 43.5% from three's is not a good sign, especially an NAIA school.
The Titans did shoot 65.2% from the floor and hit 7 of 16 three's plus they out-rebounded the taller Royals 35-22.
But defense is where it needs to start ... and end. The Titans had stretches in the middle where they were dominant but they played sloppy and committed way too many fouls (19). Letdowns are expected against a team such as Hope however the Titans need to distance themselves from bad habits. This was a game they could have put to rest that they were not going to be a defensive liability.
Still, no matter how many points were scored or how porous the defense, it was just great being back in Titan Gym and seeing the first home game of the season. Here are some observations from Saturday's contest, in no particular order:
Harper is the Real Deal
Jermaine Harper may be lean but he is tough as nails and is smooth as silk. If he wasn't gliding to the basket for an easy two than he was manhandling Hope's best player who is six inches taller than him. Don't let the slender body fool you, this guy will not back down.
He was one of the few playing hard-nosed defense the entire game. On offense, he is also one of the few who looks completely comfortable, a player who lets the game come to him and takes what the defense will allow. He is easily one of the quickest players in the Big West.
Great defender and great quickness. He is going to make a bigger impact on the conference than many have expected.
LB Can Dish
Fans are very familiar with Bobby Brown's scoring ability but what about his passing? 13 assists have to make you smile. He really is just learning this part of the game but progress is being made. It is clear that there are so many more offensive options this year and his knack for finding the open man will only get better.
This was Hope, a team not even remotely talented as any Big West foe, but one thing that was evident early in the game was the team appears to be listening. After falling down 8-3 in the first two minutes of the game, head coach Bob Burton called a timeout. It was obvious he was not pleased with the defensive effort. Sure enough, soon after, the Titans rallied and played their best defensive effort of the game and never looked back. Same thing happened late in the 2nd half.
Don't know if it's a trend but it sure is nice to see a team respond instead of collapse after a timeout has been called. Again, this was Hope, so nothing to get too excited about but was worth mentioning.
Big Men need to Get Bigger
Nothing wrong with Derek Quinet's offensive game but this is the second consecutive game where he has had just one rebound. With Lloyd Walls likely to be out at least a few more weeks it's obvious this can't continue if the Titans are going to sneak in a couple wins in December. Quinet also fouled out in 15 minutes of playing time and this simply should not happen against a team such as Hope.
Justin Burns continues to improve and he played well in the middle however, at 6-6 and 205 lbs, he is playing out of his position. You have to love his hustle and enthusiasm.
New home jerseys look good, the player recognition and championship banners in the gym are awesome and the fan turnout was to be expected. Apparently there will be no band this year, however, there is a new sound system that is expected to be installed. Based on past experiences, this could be awhile but at least it's being discussed.
The Titans (2-1) next three games are on the road and everyone expects them to return home with a 2-4 record. It's a shame really but that's the reality of a team which went into the season with a lack of front court depth is without three starters, two of whom are front court players.
With their next two opponents, Denver and Eastern Washington, playing well right now it really looks like Cal State Fullerton's best chance at an upset will be against San Diego State. For this game the Titans should debut the appearances of Ralphy Holmes and Jamaal Brown, both of whom are expected to contribute heavily. A depleted UCSB team snuck away with a win earlier this season and the Aztecs may also overlook the Titans.
Ralphy and Jamaal's return, however, does bring in new, if only temporary problems.
No matter how much they practice, adding two new players to the starting lineup will take time to adjust. The good news is everything should be running more smoothly by the time conference starts.