The Titans fell to the Stars 86-80 in front of 392 fans during their first game of the season, but instead of lack-luster performances, there was Titan forward Amir Bar-Netzer diving for loose balls. In place of guards standing around the perimeter, quick and elusive point guard Zakee Smith broke down defenses. And then there was Ralphy Holmes, who led the Titans with 23 points and seven rebounds, giving the crowd something to get excited about.
But head coach Donny Daniels said that the excitement and adrenaline came from it being the first Division I game for many of his players and that they will need to learn how to use that energy to their advantage.
"We have to use that excitement, and get a rebound, get a hand up," Daniels said. "We have to turn that excitement into more positive things."
One positive Daniels found was the Titans' ability to fight back in the game with hustle and good defense. They erased deficits of 10-points in the first half nine late in the second.
"It was good we had the ability to comeback," Daniels said as he looked at the final stat sheet after the game. "We had 21 turnovers. We have to fix that. They shot 53 percent. We have to correct that."
The Titans distributed the ball well, especially Smith, who had a team-high eight assists and zero turnovers in 33 minutes, using a quick spin move all night to free himself from the defense.
"I've have always been able to penetrate, since back in the day," Smith said. "I just try to use my strength."
Smith, a transfer from Panola Junior College in Texas, added nine points and three assists.
"I think this was a learning experience," Smith said. "We had the game. But it was the little things that hurt us. It's always the little things."
Little things like a missed free throw by junior forward Pape Sow that would have tied to game at 81 with 2:10 left to play.
Or two key turnovers by forward Anthony Bolton with the Titans down by three in the final minute.
The Stars' defense focused on Sow, who was doubled and sometimes tripled teamed. Sow, who has the potential to be a first round NBA draft pick, didn't have a stellar offensive performance, going 2-10 from the field, but he showed signs of athleticism with defense and rebounding.
"My ankle was bothering me," said Sow, who sprained it on the first day of practice in October. "I just wanted to be there for my teammates to give them confidence."
Daniels said he needed to look at the game tape to give a better evaluation, but on the surface was pleased with Sow's shot selection.
"He didn't take any bad shots," Daniels said. "He was kind of out of sync as far as catching the ball and going to score and I'm sure that had to do with his ankle."
The Stars' Derrick Anderson, who played his college ball at Pepperdine, shot 50 percent from behind the arc (4-8) and was one of three players (Anthony White, Byron Wilson) for the Stars to finish with 16 points.
D'Cean Bryant, a former Long Beach State standout, scored 12 points in 26 minutes and received boos from some Titan fans during introductions.
Sow wasn't worried about the loss.
"We have a good team," he said. "We'll be all right. It's only our first game."