Whatever momentum the Titans generated with wins over two of the top teams in the Big West was lost when they went on the road and suffered a 77-75 nonconference loss to Cal State Bakersfield, a Division I newcomer. Days after being named Big West Conference Player of the Week for his performances against Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara, junior forward Orane Chin was held to two points on 1-of-8 shooting, and the Titans were outplayed in virtually every aspect of the game.
Senior forward Jer'Vaughn Johnson was a force, scoring 19 points on 6-of-7 shooting with nine rebounds, three assists and two steals. The only other positive sign was the play of senior guard Devon Peltier, who made four of seven from 3-point range to finish with 23 points after making just three of 18 from beyond the arc in the four previous games.
The Titans needed Peltier to duplicate that performance if they were going to have a chance in the rematch against Long Beach State on Jan. 29, but this time he didn't deliver. Peltier attempted just six shots and was held to seven points. The Titans shot 38.1 percent, made just five of 17 from 3-point range and were outrebounded 44-35.
Cal State Fullerton coach Bob Burton said he was disappointed with the way his team played, especially offensively. The Titans had only eight assists on 24 made baskets and committed 15 turnovers in a big step back from their previous performance against the 49ers.
Now the Titans must take what they learned on the road against Cal State Bakersfield and Long Beach State and make a stand in a pivotal, three-game homestand. They were scheduled to play UC Irvine on Feb. 3, UC Riverside on Feb. 5 and Cal State Northridge on Feb. 10, all at Titan Gym. They will play three of their final four regular-season games on the road with stops at UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 16, Pacific on March 3 and UC Davis on March 5.
--Junior PG Perry Webster has proven quite capable of distributing the basketball. Webster was leading the Big West Conference in assists per game (5.4) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.9) through Jan. 30. His assist-to-turnover ratio was the sixth-best mark in the nation.
--If there's one thing the Titans do well, it's free-throw shooting. They were third in the Big West and 67th in the nation at 72.1 percent through Jan. 30. Among conference foes, only UC Santa Barbara (76.8) and UC Irvine (72.7) were ranked higher. Senior G Devon Peltier was first in the Big West and 17th in the nation at 89.9 percent.
--Cal State Fullerton must get better defensively if it is going to improve its seeding for the Big West tournament. The Titans were last in the Big West and 294th out of 336 Division I teams in scoring offense through Jan. 30, giving up an average of 74.1 points per game.
BY THE NUMBERS: 329 -- Where Cal State Fullerton ranked among 336 Division I teams in blocked shots through Jan. 30. The Titans were averaging 1.4 blocks per game.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I was disappointed with the way we played tonight, especially offensively. But credit Long Beach with playing outstanding defense. They are a hard team for us to chase." -- Cal State Fullerton coach Bob Burton, following a 75-60 loss to Long Beach State on Jan. 29.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--vs. UC Irvine, Feb. 3
KEY MATCHUPS: The Titans must take better care of the basketball when they face the Anteaters for the second time this season. They shot 48.2 percent from the field and made 19 of 22 free throws but still suffered an 85-78 loss in Irvine on Jan. 5 due in large part to 24 turnovers, including nine by junior F Orane Chin. Senior G Devon Peltier presented problems for the Anteaters, scoring 23 points on 7-of-15 shooting. The Titans had trouble with UC Irvine's guards. Patrick Rembert had 20 points, five assists, five steals and four rebounds, and Mike Wilder had 17 points.
--vs. UC Riverside, Feb. 5
KEY MATCHUPS: UC Riverside's big men were no match for Cal State Fullerton's frontcourt when the Titans beat the Highlanders 83-77 in overtime on Jan. 8 in Riverside. Senior F Jer'Vaughn Johnson, junior F Andre Hardy and Chin combined for 42 points and 33 rebounds for the Titans, grabbing as many boards as UC Riverside's entire team. Senior G Javon Borum had 23 points and scored five in the final 2.1 seconds of regulation to force overtime, but the Highlanders couldn't keep pace in the extra session.
--Junior F Orane Chin was named Big West Conference Player of the Week after averaging 15 points and 7.5 rebounds in victories over Long Beach State on Jan. 19 and UC Santa Barbara on Jan. 22. He grabbed eight rebounds in the next game, a 77-75 nonconference loss to Cal State Bakersfield on Jan. 25, but was held to two points on 1-of-8 shooting. He struggled again in a 75-60 loss to Long Beach State on Jan. 29, finishing with five points and three rebounds.
--Freshman G Isiah Umipig had a nice outing against Long Beach State on Jan. 29 after cooling off considerably since scoring a career-high 19 points in back-to-back games against UC Irvine on Jan. 5 and UC Riverside on Jan. 8. Umipig scored a total of 18 points in the next five games combined, making just seven of 22 field-goal attempts (.318) and two of 13 (.153) from 3-point range. He broke out of his funk against the 49ers, scoring 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting.
--Junior G Orlando Brown had 10 points at Cal State Bakersfield on Jan. 25, scoring in double figures for the first time since the Titans beat Cal State Bakersfield on Nov. 27 at Titan Gym.