DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 17th, 7:00 p.m. (pst)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Alex G. Spanos Center (6,150) -- Stockton, California. Television: None. Home Record: Fullerton 6-2, Pacific 5-1. Away Record: Fullerton 3-3, Pacific 4-3. Neutral Record: Fullerton 1-0, Pacific 2-1. Conference Record: Fullerton 3-1, Pacific 2-1. Series Record: Pacific leads, 41-32.
GAME NOTES: The Titans of Cal State Fullerton begin a journey that sees the team play six of its next seven games on the road, beginning with a stop at the Spanos Center tonight to challenge Big West Conference foe Pacific. Fullerton had been riding along nicely with three league wins to open the campaign, but on Saturday the team was treated to an 87-72 setback by UC Santa Barbara at Titan Gym, dropping the squad to 3-1 in conference and 10-5 overall. As for the Tigers, currently 5-1 in Stockton, they too saw a three-game win streak come to an end over the weekend when they bowed at Cal State Northridge by a score of 78-61. Heading into last season, the Titans had won just two of the previous 19 outings against Pacific, but the squad ran the table in three meetings, which means the Tigers now lead the series by a count of 41-32.
The usually reliable Josh Akognon had an agonizing game against UCSB over the weekend, shooting just 3-of-16 from the field, not to mention a woeful 1-of-11 behind the three-point line, yet still finished with 17 points thanks to a 10- of-11 effort at the free-throw line. Scott Cutley added 15 points and Marcus Morgan 10 as the duo combined for 15 rebounds in the setback as well. Frank Robinson collected a team-best 10 boards, but he too struggled from the field (2-of-10), which makes it easy to see how the Titans finished up 33.9 percent from the floor and 5-of-22 behind the three-point line. Akognon has been the top scorer in all but four games this season for Fullerton, resulting in his 20.5 ppg. A persistent deep threat, Akognon has attempted all but 74 of his 222 field goal chances from beyond the arc thus far, connecting on 41.2 percent of his tries. The team as a whole is checking in at 42 percent from three-point range, which explains how the squad can be producing a lofty 82.5 ppg this season.
Although it wouldn't have made enough of a difference, Pacific's 9-of-20 effort at the free-throw line on Saturday was a miserable experience in the loss to Northridge. Add to that an 8-of-24 effort behind the three-point line and an incredible 27 turnovers, and the Tigers never stood a chance to begin with. Nevertheless, Steffan Johnson still came away with 21 points and five rebounds, although he also accounted for eight miscues. Anthony Brown and Chad Troyer contributed 14 and 12 points, respectively. Johnson, the leading scorer in each of the last three games for a team that has maintained the same starting lineup for all but one game this season, means he is now sitting at 15.6 ppg on the strength of his 43.6 percent effort behind the three-point line. More than just a shooter, Johnson also has nearly three times as many assists (75) as anyone on the roster. Troyer (11.8 ppg) and Brown (10.9 ppg) represent the other double-digit scorers on the team, the latter also placing first on the glass with almost six and a half rebounds per contest.
Akognon and Johnson are both special players for their respective teams, but one has to think that the former will bounce back after a lackluster shooting effort in order to give the Titans an opportunity at the road win tonight.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cal State Fullerton 85, Pacific 77