Basketball Preview: UC Irvine at CS Fullerton

Cal State Fullerton is a 6 point favorite in tonights Big West opener against UC Irvine. The Titans posted a 7-4 record during non-conference play and lead overall series with the cross-town rival Anteaters 44-39.

DATE & TIME: Friday, January 4th, 10:05 p.m. (et).

FACTS & STATS: Site: Titan Gym (3,500) -- Fullerton, California. Television: Local. Home Record: UC Irvine 4-1, Fullerton 4-1. Away Record: UC Irvine 1-4, Fullerton 2-3. Neutral Record: UC Irvine 0-3, Fullerton 1-0. Conference Record: UC Irvine 0-0, Fullerton 0-0. Series Record: Cal State Fullerton leads, 44-39.

GAME NOTES: Held to their lowest scoring output of the season over the weekend, the Cal State Fullerton Titans try to bounce back tonight as they host the UC Irvine Anteaters in Big West Conference action at Titan Gym. The Titans went from posting 103 points versus Furman on Friday night to a mere 59 versus Saint Mary's in the title game of the Shamrock Classic in Moraga the next night. The loss was the second in the last three outings for Fullerton, which had scored less than 75 points only once before in 2007-08. As for the Anteaters, who are closing out a five-game road trip with this encounter, they had to go to overtime against Harvard on Sunday to snap a three-game slide with an 80-77 victory. The road win was just the first of the campaign for Irvine, now with five victories in a dozen opportunities. With respect to the all-time series between these two schools on the hardwood, Cal State Fullerton leads by a count of 44-39. Fullerton won both meetings a season ago, first taking a 71-68 triumph on the road on January 20th and then repeating the trend with a 75-60 decision at home a week later.

Trailing by as many as 18 points, the Anteaters nipped away at Harvard on Sunday afternoon in Cambridge, forcing overtime when Brett Lauer connected on a three-pointer with 15 seconds remaining in regulation. Of his 13 points on the day, eight came in the bonus session for Patrick Sanders as he became one of four players to score in double figures. Darren Fells contributed a team-best 24 points, seven rebounds, five steals and four blocks before fouling out, while Marcus McIntosh and Lauer tallied 13 and 10 points, respectively. A 64.3 percent shooter from the field this season, Fells is in for a team-high 14.3 ppg to this point in the campaign, followed by Sanders and his 13.7 ppg as the only two double-digit scorers on the squad. Kevin Bland (7.7 ppg) is pulling down close to six rebounds per game for the Anteaters, but without enough support the team is still collecting less than 29 rpg as a group.

The Titans were more than competitive in the first half on Saturday versus Saint Mary's, leading by a basket at the break in fact, but in the second half the squad's offense disappeared. Fullerton converted just nine total field goals in the frame and went 1-of-11 from behind the three-point line in the losing effort. One of the league's top scorers, Josh Akognon accounted for 16 points and nine rebounds for the visitors, while Frank Robinson and Marcus Crenshaw chipped in 13 points apiece as they combined to shoot a mere 11-of-28 from the floor. Making only 5-of-9 at the free-throw line didn't help matters either. Akognon has led the team in scoring in each of the last three games and seven times already this season, eventually leading to his 19.8 ppg. Of his 73 made field goals, 45 have come behind the three-point line where he is 41.7 percent accurate. Robinson adds 16.7 ppg, Scott Cutley 14.0 ppg and 7.1 rpg, followed by Crenshaw and his 10.5 ppg which has pushed the Titans to 83.5 ppg. However, in allowing opponents to shoot 50.1 percent from the field and 42.2 percent from three-point range, the squad is permitting foes to remain too competitive.

Being one of the top scoring programs in the nation, this is the perfect time for the Titans to flex their muscles and show the rest of the Big West what they have in store over the next couple of months.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cal State Fullerton 81, UC Irvine 70