Message board poster and long-time Titan fan Rufus has labeled me "homer" and I now vow to wear his nickname like a badge of honor. This was one of the first games I can ever remember actually feeling at ease and knowing we were not going to lose, even when we fell down by a point late in the game. That now makes two of three conference games where a "typical" Titan team would come up short.
Add two more to the mix
Did I know Hardy was going to pull off an off-balance 10-foot high prayer while being fouled? Nope. Did I think Jamaal Brown would drain two huge free throws in the last seconds to seal the game? Of course not. I thought the heroics would likely go to Bobby Brown or even Jermaine Harper as our other two game breakers in Ralphy Holmes and Yaphett King had fouled out much earlier. So now we have at least six guys who have come through down the stretch to win us games. Tell me any Titan team in our history who can claim such salvations.
Defense? Who said I can't play defense?!
The clear-cut choice for the 2004-05 Lyle Parks Jr. Titan Hustle Award is Hardy Asprilla. But don't rule out Ralphy Holmes just yet. He was our best defender on the floor last night. He was all over the place with his hustle, rebounding, blocking shots and smothering of defenders. It was a very rare site to see him get beat by Riverside players. No other player can say that last night. Sorry folks, but if Ralphy keeps this play up, my vote is going his way.
Some might look at the boxscore and say he fouled out. My only answer is that at least 2 of those fouls were bogus calls by incompetent referees. In addition, those fouls cost him -- and us -- two offensive rebounds and 4 more points.
This game just help to validate the fact he is the most exciting player to play in historic Titan Gym since the days of Leon Wood. Easily in my top two of all-time favorite Titans.
Weak in the middle but...
So how can a team be so overmatched and consistently get beat inside by taller and bigger opponents yet still out-rebound them by 22? 22-8 on offensive rebounds and a whopping 35-26 on the defensive side... It's all a matter of who wants it more. This team wants it bad. Hardy was a monster and Jamaal came down with some big boards and Ralphy played big as well. LB even had one nice one-handed grab. He looked like USC's Mike Williams on the play.
I didn't think Morton would be as good as he was and it certainly felt like he hit more than 8 of 14 shots. He is a great player in the Big West but we also made Klaus Schille look like an absolute stud, and sadly, he is far from being that.
I thought our zone stopped the momentum in the middle of the game. I know Bob Burton hates to use it but it's nice to know they can switch up once in awhile. It's very clear we miss Llyod Walls and what he would bring to the defensive side of things but we have to move on as it appears his career may be over. Still don't think I would do anything differently on defense. We are just going to have to take our lumps. ("How many lumps do you want?" - 171k wav file)
I actually overheard an anonymous fan in the stands yelling at our coaches to "slow it down!" with a 6 point lead and 5 minutes still remaining in the game. Some fans are still stuck in the Donny era and just can't figure out that this team has broken barriers put up by 12+ years of coaching failures and ineptness. Folks, the Slo-O is the past, please don't ever encourage such inappropriate behavior.
But that wasn't the most absurd thing I saw at this game. Nope, not even close. The most absurd thing was watching Bob Burton-hater BBMBF getting comped -- either directly or indirectly by our own coaches -- to attend a home game. Good grief, where is the honor?!
Also of note were the seats in the upper deck on the south side were pulled back (yeah!). Nice to see but in typical Cal State Fullerton planning, the first 5-10 rows have obstructed views from the railing in front. I would guess there are at least 200 seats that are completely useless. Why not use Plexiglas?
Theories and Superstitions
When are we ever going to get the calls a home team deserves? Two of the three refs were horrible and clearly favoring the Highlanders. Do you think it has anything to do with the fact that our loudest fan base doesn't come from the student section but from guys just as old as the they are? Just a thought...
Orange shirts worked as advertised and I will keep wearing mine until it no longer serves its purpose. I finally figured out I am the jinx of the "de-fense-clap-clap-de-fense" chant. I was amazed the chant was working quite well so I decided to give it a try and UCR's Morton scored on consecutive, uncontested post moves. Never again.
Exciting game to watch even if the shots weren't falling. The atmosphere was great and it's starting to feel like home again.