Titans cannot handle Matadors' Zone D

The Cal State Fullerton men's basketball team needs to figure out how to attack the zone or they will be in big trouble.

Cal State Northridge came into Titan Gym Saturday night and used a stifling zone defense to win, 78-72.

“Our whole big thing is that we really like to take it to the basket and penetrate, we are not great shooters,” said Head Coach Bob Burton. “There’s no secret about that, so we have to find ways to attack it.”

Junior guard Devon Peltier led the Titans with 23 points and shot 7-for-13 from the three-point line.

“He’s a phenomenal shooter,” Burton said. “If it wasn’t for him it would’ve been really bad.”

The game started with junior center Bryce Webster’s offensive rebound and layup to make it 2-0.  

However, the Titans went ice cold for the next seven minutes until a three-pointer by Peltier.

Five minutes into the game, Webster and junior forward Jer’Vaughn Johnson both had two personal fouls.

Johnson then picked up two more fouls; including a technical with 9:18 left in the first half.

This was a huge blow to CSUF as they were getting beat up on the interior.

Just like the last game, the Titans could not find a way to get it going against a zone defense.

Unlike two nights ago where Cal Poly San Luis Obispo shot 33.3 percent from the field, the Matadors shot 50 percent in the first half.

Peltier was the only one who could connect from the perimeter as he led the Titans at the half with nine points.

CSUF only made six field goals in the first 20 minutes and shot 31.6 percent.

CSUN dominated the first half and had a comfortable lead 12-point lead going into the locker room.

“In the first half our guys were tentative and they were not penetrating,” Burton said. “They weren’t playing together and it was a real struggle.”

When the Titans came out for the second half, they came out with a different mindset in defeating the zone.

“We went out with a lot of intensity and we started getting stops on the defensive end and that created our offense,” Peltier said.   

However, they still could not contain Matador junior forward Lenny Daniel, who had 20 points and 12 rebounds.

Peltier hit back-to-back three-pointers to cut into the lead but CSUN wanted to make the game a sprint that CSUF could not keep up with.

Eventually, Johnson checked back in and helped the Titans with two three-pointers but he fouled out with 9:52 left in the game.

After an Anderson block, he had two nice assists inside to Webster that got the crowd back on its feet.

The next possession down, senior guard Aaron Thompson made a steal and made a breakaway dunk that cut the lead down to four.

“Coach (Burton) told us to just go out there and play, and that really made the difference,” Webster said. “Maybe if we started from the beginning we wouldn’t have been thinking so much.”

After Webster fouled out with 5:34 left, it seemed like the Titans fell back.

“He (Webster) was a force inside, we were getting him the ball and I thought when he came out of the game it was instrumental,” Burton said.

The Matadors had a total of 14 offensive rebounds in the game.

Every time the Titans were threatening, they committed a foul on the defensive end.

“We cut it right down, we had some stops and were right in the ballgame but they had two major offensive rebounding plays that busted it out,” Burton said.

The loss drops the Titans to 2-3 in the Big West and 8-8 overall for the season.