Only one game separated fourth-place UC Davis from Long Beach State and Cal State Northridge, who were tied for sixth, a half-game ahead of UC Riverside, as of Jan. 25. Cal State Fullerton was fifth at 3-4, a half-game behind UC Davis.
The Titans couldn’t help feeling they let one get away at UC Santa Barbara after overcoming a 16-point second-half deficit, only to lose 85-80 in overtime.
Junior guard Devon Peltier made two free throws to give the Titans a 72-69 lead with 19.8 seconds to play, but UC Santa Barbara guard Orlando Johnson sank a 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds left to force overtime.
The Titans’ trip started with an 80-73 loss at Pacific on Jan. 21. The Titans trailed, 40-29, at the half and by 14 points early in the second, but the complexion of the game changed dramatically.
The Tigers played the second half without senior forward Joe Ford, the reigning Big West Defensive Player of the Year, who sat out because of a calf contusion.
The Titans took advantage, penetrating repeatedly and gashing Pacific’s defense for nine points in a span of 1:58. That was part of a 17-2 run that gave Cal State Fullerton a 53-52 lead with 9:59 remaining, and the Titans stretched the lead to four with 5:38 to play, but then the game got away from them.
Pacific point guard Demetrece Young and forward Pat Eveland hit big shots, two with the shot clock winding down, and the Tigers regained control with a 15-4 run.
“When the game got down to who was going to win it, they stepped up,” Cal State Fullerton coach Bob Burton told the Stockton Record. “Young and Eveland won them the game. The clock-beating threes were the cruncher. We played the best team in our league down to one possession, but we couldn’t finish.”
—Senior F Aaron Thompson was shooting a staggering 52 percent from 3-point range, but he has cooled off considerably in recent weeks. Thompson made 24 of 37 (64.9 percent) from 3-point range over the first 14 games. Over the next four games, he made four of 16 (25.0 percent). He looked more like himself while making three of four against Pacific on Jan. 21, but he was 0-for-3 against Cal Poly on Jan. 14, 1-for-5 against Cal State Northridge on Jan. 16, 0-for-4 against UC Santa Barbara on Jan. 23, and 1-for-3 against Cal State Bakersfield on Jan. 26.
Thompson finished with a game-high 23 points in the overtime win against Bakersfield.
• Senior F Gerard Anderson has picked up his production dramatically since Big West Conference play began. Anderson struggled in nonconference play, averaging 6.5 points and 4.6 rebounds through 11 games. In the Titans’ first 11 conference games, he averaged 14.4 points and 7.1 rebounds. Anderson had his first double-double of the season in a Jan. 23 loss to UC Santa Barbara, posting 11 points and 10 rebounds.
On The Spot: Cal State Fullerton is third in the Big West Conference in 3-point field-goal percentage defense. The Titans have held opponents to 35.9-percent shooting from beyond the arc, but their perimeter defense has been exploited in recent weeks. UC Davis made 9-for-16 from 3-point range in a Jan. 2 game against Cal State Fullerton, and Pacific made 10 of 20 on Jan. 21. Over the last seven games through Jan. 25, opponents were shooting 39.7 percent against the Titans.
Quote To Note: “We’ve had trouble against zones because we are not a great shooting team.”—Coach Bob Burton, to the Daily Titan.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Season Recap: Cal State Fullerton still has a chance to be a contender in the Big West Conference if it can find a way to win games on the road. The Titans are 6-1 at home, but they’re 3-9 away from Titan Gym. They have nine conference games remaining, four of them on the road. They will visit Long Beach State on Feb. 4, UC Irvine on Feb. 10, Cal State Northridge on Feb. 13 and Cal Poly on Feb. 24. Those games may ultimately decide where the Titans finish in the conference standings.
- Cal State Northridge 78, Cal State Fullerton 72
- Pacific 80, Cal State Fullerton 73
- UC Santa Barbara 85, Cal State Fullerton 80 (OT)
- Cal State Fullerton 92, Cal State Bakersfield 84 (OT)
- vs. UC Irvine, Saturday, Jan. 30
- at Long Beach State, Thursday, Feb. 4
- vs. UC Riverside, Saturday, Feb. 6
- at UC Irvine, Wednesday, Feb. 10
In Focus: Cal State Fullerton will puts its balanced scoring attack up against UC Irvine’s star power when the Anteaters visit Titan Gym on Jan. 30. No one averages more than 10.9 points per game for the Titans, but six players average at least 8.5. The Anteaters rely heavily on sophomore F Eric Wise, who averages 16.1 points, and senior G Michael Hunter, who averages 14.3.
• Junior C Bryce Webster’s minutes are sometimes limited because of foul trouble, but he scores with remarkable efficiency when he’s on the floor. Webster is shooting 65.5 percent from the field and 89.5 percent from the free-throw line. He averages 8.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 0.9 blocked shots.
• Junior F Jer'Vaughn Johnson leads the team at 11.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. He had a season-high 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting in an 85-80 overtime loss to UC Santa Barbara on Jan. 23.
• It’s all or nothing with sophomore F Orane Chin. He demonstrated it again in losses to Pacific on Jan. 21 and UC Santa Barbara on Jan. 23. Chin had 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting with seven rebounds, two steals and one blocked shot in 21 minutes against the Tigers. Two days later, he had one assist but no points, rebounds or steals in 17 minutes against the Gauchos.