Men's basketball still has a fighting chance

Think Different. Think Simon. Does anyone even remember the Cal State Fullerton men’s basketball team beating UCLA back in November?

I can understand if you’re saying, “That was so last semester.”

After starting off the season with three straight wins, including the win over UCLA, CSUF has been in a funk of late.

The hot-and-cold Titans have had two three-game winning streaks and three three-game losing streaks, but none more significant than their last string of losses in Big West Conference play.

Their last two losses were on the road against the top two teams in the league, University of the Pacific and UCSB.

“They are both hard places to play and really good teams,” Titan Head Coach Bob Burton said.

Against Pacific, CSUF continued the theme of every first half this season – coming out slow and lackadaisical.

However, in the second half they shot 54.5 percent from the field.

The Titans fought back but they could not stop Pacific junior Demetrece Young late in the game.

“They just don’t give you anything,  they take everything away, they know what they’re doing offensively, and defensively,” Burton said.

Senior guard Aaron Thompson had 16 points and seven rebounds.

Thompson is one of the better rebounding guards in the Big West, and has vastly improved his outside shot since last season.

His 52.8 percent from three-pointer land is good for seventh in the nation.

Redshirt junior center Bryce Webster was in foul trouble once again.

When he is in the game, the Titans have a skilled back-to-the-basket scorer in the paint that most teams cannot match.

His talent has not been fully exposed this season because teams have been going to the zone defense against CSUF.

“We’ve had trouble against zones,  because we are not a great shooting team,” Burton said.

Two days later, the Titans traveled to Santa Barbara to play the Gauchos.

CSUF came out a step slow and were down by 10 at the half.

For some reason, they can never start games aggressivly so they fall behind and have to dig themselves out of a hole.

Against mediocre teams they are able to come back but against the top tier teams in the league, even a valiant second half effort has not sufficed.

That effort came after intermission and it looked like the Titans were going to capatilize on their hot shooting.

With 19.8 seconds left, after a couple Titan free throws, Gauchos’ redshirt sophomore, Orlando Johnson, hit a three-pointer with 3.4 seconds to go to take the game into overtime.

From then on, the Gauchos wore them down on the way to a 85-80 victory.

Redshirt junior forward Jer’Vaughn Johnson scored 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting.

He is a versatile inside-outside threat who has become the leading scorer for the Titans this season.

Junior guard Devon Peltier, a transfer from Missouri State-West Plains, is doing his best Josh Akognon impersonation this season by lighting it up from behind the arc.

While it’s evident that the Titans do have some talented players, they have lacked the killer instinct that is needed to win close games.

The league is wide open this year and any team can win the conference.

Whoever can rise to the occassion and execute on crucial possessions is going to win the Big West title.

Even preseason league favorite Long Beach State is dwelling in the cellar of the Big West right now.

There is hope, guys; CSUF is still in the middle of the pack.

By the time the Big West Tourney comes around, everything goes out the window.

It is a fight for survival and a chance to play in the most coveted tournament in college hoops – the NCAA tournament.


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