Team Report: January 6th

Expectations began to rise when Cal State Fullerton opened the season with victories over Hope International, UCLA and New Mexico State, but the Titans have lost seven of nine since, including their Big West Conference opener.

The Titans opened on the road against UC Davis, one of the few Big West teams that was struggling more than they were. The Aggies had lost six in a row and eight of 11 games before beating Division III Whittier in their final non-conference game.

Even so, they led the Titans by 14 before point guard Mark Payne, arguably the best player in the Big West, left the game because of a shoulder injury not four minutes into the second half.

The Aggies scored only two points over the next 9:19, but still managed to scratch out a 67-63 victory.

It was another dispiriting setback for Cal State Fullerton, which has won only two games over the last six weeks. The first was a 97-59 victory over Division III Occidental on Dec. 12.

The second, on Dec. 28, was a 77-70 victory over Cal State Bakersfield, which is 1-10 this season as it transitions to Division I. Both victories ended three-game losing streaks.

"I was happy with the win," coach Bob Burton of Cal State Fullerton told The Orange County Register following the Cal State Bakersfield game. "I was happy with the defense, especially in the first half.

The important thing is, we had a nice lead last game (against Morehead State) and let it get away. This game we stepped up and finished. I'm happy with the way we played under pressure."

Big West Conference play could be particularly difficult if the Titans felt pressure in a non-conference home game against a non-Division I opponent with one victory.

Preseason favorite Long Beach State will visit Titan Gym on Jan. 7. The Titans will visit UC Riverside, which defeated Long Beach State in the conference opener, on Jan. 9.

Also looming are a Jan. 21 trip to Pacific and a Jan. 23 game at UC Santa Barbara.

The Titans are 4-0 at home, but they are only 1-7 away from Titan Gym.

Six of those losses came during a stretch in which the Titans lost six of seven games, falling to Central Arkansas, Stephen F. Austin, San Diego State, Weber State, Utah State and Morehead State.

"It really was a tough row of games for us," Burton told the Register. "There could be a lot of things I could be critical about. But the most important thing with the way it's been is to be positive and build on that."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Six players led the team in scoring at least once in the first 11 games. The Titans aren't used to being so balanced after having high-scoring guards Josh Akognon and Bobby Brown over the past six years. Coach Bob Burton doesn't mind mixing it up, but the Titans may want to groom a go-to guy who can deliver when the game is on the line during Big West Conference play.

--The Titans averted the worst slump in the Bob Burton era when they beat Cal State Bakersfield in their final non-conference tune-up to snap a three-game losing streak. They've lost three consecutive games eight times in seven seasons with Burton at the helm, but they've yet to lose four in a row.

ON THE SPOT: The Titans' road problems were a major concern going into Big West Conference play. They had lost their last six games away from Titan Gym, three on the road and three on neutral courts. They went 0-2 during an early-December trip to Texas and 0-2 during a late-December trip to Utah, the first times since 2005 they have returned from multi-game trips without winning at least one game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was difficult to come in here and lose three games, but we found out a lot about ourselves and what our team needs to do." -- Coach Bob Burton, to the Logan Herald Journal, after going 0-3 at the Basketball Travelers' Invitational in Utah.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

SEASON RECAP: The Titans have been nothing if not erratic. They opened the season with three consecutive wins, including an overtime victory over UCLA, but then they lost consecutive games to Central Arkansas, Stephen F. Austin and San Diego State. They scored 97 points in a victory over Occidental on Dec. 12, but then lost their next three while averaging 64.3 points.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- G Jacques Streeter, G Aaron Thompson, F Gerard Anderson, F Jer'Vaughn Johnson, C Bryce Webster. Key Subs -- G Devon Peltier, F Orane Chin, F Papa Guisse, G Jamal McGuire.

GAME REVIEW:

  • Morehead State 69, Cal State Fullerton 62
  • Cal State Fullerton 77, Cal State Bakersfield 70
  • UC Davis 67, Cal State Fullerton 63

GAME PREVIEW

  • vs. Long Beach State, Thursday, Jan. 7
  • at UC Riverside, Saturday, Jan. 9
  • vs. Cal Poly, Thursday, Jan. 14
  • vs. Cal State Northridge, Saturday, Jan. 16
  • at Pacific, Thursday, Jan. 21

IN FOCUS: G Josh Akognon scored 37 points and Cal State Fullerton ended UC Riverside's season with a 59-46 victory in a first-round game at last year's Big West Conference Tournament. The Titans and Highlanders split two regular-season games last year. UC Riverside F Kyle Austin presented problems for the Titans in those games, averaging 19.5 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 51.7 percent from the field, but he was held to four points on 2-of-13 shooting in the tournament game.

ROSTER REPORT:

--Senior F Aaron Thompson shot a sizzling 64.3 percent from three-point range in the Titans' first 11 games. He made 5-of-6 while scoring 22 points against New Mexico State, and 4-of-4 while scoring 16 points against Cal State Bakersfield. Thompson leads the Big West Conference in three-point percentage and ranks sixth with 1.6 three-point baskets per game.

--Senior F Gerard Anderson has struggled in recent weeks, averaging only 4.6 points on 41 percent shooting in the Titans' last eight non-conference games. Anderson averaged nine points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 54.1 percent from the field last season. In the first three games this season, he averaged 11.3 points, seven rebounds and 4.3 assists.

--Junior G Devon Peltier has come off the bench to lead the Titans in scoring three times this season. Peltier is averaging 9.2 points on 44.6 percent shooting from the field and 45.5 percent shooting from three-point range. He had a season-high 21 points against Occidental on Dec. 12 and produced 15 points in consecutive games against Morehead State and Cal State Bakersfield.