Titan Men's Basketball Survives

Cal State Fullerton's sports information office called it "the most important 'road trip.' With the men's basketball team tied for first place, the Titans "traveled" to Long Beach State and UC Irvine to play the 49ers and the Anteaters hoping to keep an amazing run going.

Not since the 1983-84 season had CSUF gotten off to a 13-3 (4-1 in conference), but that's what the Bobby Brown, Scott Cutley-led team had - and they were tied for first in the Big West with Long Beach State, making last Wednesday's game at the Walter Pyramid arena that more meaningful.

The Pyramid wasn't packed, but 2,178 were in attendance - including the Orange County Register's columnist extraordinaire Mark Whicker (first live CSUF game he had seen all season) and a section of about 70 Titans fans behind the visitor's bench.

There was excitement in the stands and it spilled over onto the court as the teams combined for 180 points. Unfortunately for CSUF, the final score did not end up in their favor as the 49ers beat the Titans, 95-85, to take over sole possession of first place.

The Titans were a dreadful 6 of 23 from behind the 3-point line. They only had the lead twice, and it was for a total of 34 seconds.

Every time CSUF would get close, the 49ers would answer, and answer quickly - both times with baskets from LBSU guard Kevin Houston (14 points and six assists).

Brown (28 points and five assists) and Cutley (23 points and 10 rebounds) kept the Titans in the game in the second half, but both contributed to the loss. Cutley got into foul trouble early on, picking up his third personal 12 minutes into the game, and Brown committed five turnovers, that's two less than the entire LBSU team had.

Brown also was penalized on a debatable foul on a 3-point attempt by Kejuan Johnson, Johnson, who

made the 3-point shot, then converted the free-throw to complete the four-point play. That sequence took the game from LBSU being up by three to CSUF being down 84-77 with four minutes to play.

Brown answered with a lay up to put into the lead, but Long Beach came back with a 3-pointer from Aaron Nixon to put the 49ers back up at 87-79.

The loss was the fourth road defeat for the Titans.

Head Coach Bob Burton wondered in the post-game conference if the team was tough enough to get it done away from Titan Gym.

"Our losses have all come there (on the road)," Burton said. "First at Eastern Washington, at UCLA (then at Santa Barbara and now Long Beach), and they've all been in the second half. It's something I'm not doing right with these guys to be tougher on the second half.

"We played hard, we competed hard, but we are not getting done what we need to do. We are making way too many mistakes and those things are catching us there at the end."

Brown's appearance after the game embodied the reaction of the team. The point-guard, as he walked back to the team bus, had his right ankle heavily wrapped and had a very noticeable limp. His eyes were fixated on the ground and his face had a somber look.

How do they bounce back from a loss like that?

"Don't think about it and play UC Irvine on Saturday," Brown said in a simple, easygoing tone.

The Titans, however, started the UCI game like a team that had just suffered a tough loss - only making 6 of their first 20 field goals. They were down 23-12 until Brown scored 11 consecutive points to bring the team back.

In the second half, Fullerton battled like a team in badly need of a road win - in badly need of a bounce back win.

With the score tied 68-68, Frank Robinson nailed a 3-pointer with one second left to give the Titans a 71-68 win against the Anteaters. It was Robinson's only 3-pointer of the game. Robinson scored 11 points, Brown had 17 and Cutley added 14 points and 12 rebounds as the CSUF improved 14-4 overall and 5-2 in conference to stay one game behind Long Beach State (13-5, 4-1), which beat Riverside, 99-65, that same Saturday.

CSUF's next game is this Thursday against UC Davis in a non-confernce game at home. They will then host UCI on Saturday with tip-off scheduled for 6:05 p.m.

The Titans are first in the Big West and fourth in the nation in scoring (averaging 86.5 points a game). However they rank next to last in defense, allowing an almost conference low 74.7 points a game. Brown is first in scoring (21.2), first in assists (5.50) and leads the conference in 3-pointers made (50). Cutley is fifth in scoring (15.6) and first in rebounding (9.1)

"The winning part has been terrific," Burton said. "The start that we have has been terrific. (But) we need to start playing good defense and rebounding. That's the key for us and that's what we have to emphasize."