At first glance, the game seemed liked an easy victory for the Titans because SIUE had only four wins coming into the game.
The Cougars – a transitioning Div. II school in their second year of a four-year reclassification process to Div. I status – were not intimidated and kept the Titans on their toes for most of the game.
“We did what we wanted to do, which was just to win the game because we had been struggling here,” Burton said. “I don’t think anyone was really happy with the way we played.”
The early start and the relatively quiet home crowd – 600 people were in attendance – had an effect on the Titans.
CSUF never trailed in the game but they could not put the Cougars away.
“I think this was the smallest crowd we’ve had all year,” Burton said. “I think our kids feed off of that a little bit.”
Senior forward Gerard Anderson had 20 points and 12 rebounds – his fourth double-double this season – and sophomore guard Jacques Streeter had his sixth game this season with at least 20 points and five assists.
The Titans had no answer for SIUE sophomore forward Mark Yelovich, who scored 32 points – the second most points scored in a game by a player against CSUF this season.
The Cougars shot 22.9 percent from the field in the first half, but their hustle and nine offensive rebounds helped keep the game close.
CSUF had a good stretch run with three consecutive plays at the hoop which gave them a 10- point cushion.
Junior guard Devon Peltier’s three-pointer at the buzzer gave CSUF a 36-28 lead at the half.
After intermission, SIUE went on a 14-4 run and scored on six straight possessions to cut the Titan lead down to 47-44.
After a CSUF timeout, the Titans went on a 7-0 run with quick strikes in transition.
SIUE responded with two straight three-pointers to cut the lead down to four with 11:28 left in regulation.
“There were many gaps in the game where we just shut down defensively,” Streeter said. “In transition we weren’t able to find their shooters and they spotted up and knocked them down.”
The Titans pulled away for the rest of second half and after a Streeter jumper, CSUF had their biggest lead of the game at 13.
However, the Titans fell asleep once again and the Cougars caught the CSUF defense off guard in the final minute.
“We just couldn’t get stops, our defense was real poor at times,” Burton said. “Our offense was good and bad, we’re very inconsistent again but I’m really glad that we won the game.”
The Titans have not had a home victory since Jan. 30 against UC Irvine.
“It feels good to win at home and get that momentum for the next game,” Streeter said.
CSUF travels to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for their last Big West road game on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. – the game will be televised on Fox Sports West.
“The next three games like coach (Burton) said, is going to determine our lives,” Anderson said. “If we win the next three games we’ll have a better seeding in the (Big West) Tournament, I think everyone is starting to realize that it’s getting really serious now.”