It was Kwame Vaughn’s first game as a Titan. The guard sat out last season after transferring from San Francisco University. He looks to be a key player for CSUF this season, knocking down shots and orchestrating the offense. He also had a game-high eight rebounds.
“It was a lot of nerves from not playing over a year, obviously,” said Vaughn of his debut game. “I love my teammates. It’s the best team I ever played for. All the coaching, the staff is optimistic at all times. They have great confidence in me so that helps me out there.”
Umipig found himself in early foul trouble and missed most of the first half. But after the break, the sophomore guard was found early and often, contributing 16 second-half points, including four treys.
“I didn’t play much the first half when I was in foul trouble and that was frustrating. When I got in there, my teammates did a good job looking for me,” said Umipig.
CSULA sophomore Quinton Watkins and senior Leland Jones led the Golden Eagles in scoring 11 and 10 points, respectively. CSULA shot at a very low 22 percent in the game.
It was the first time the fans got to see the Titans on the court this season. CSUF played a closed-door game against UCLA already this preseason, but the team still had trouble shooting from the onset. Their first basket came four minutes into the game and already down by six until senior forward Andre Hardy scored a layup.
CSUF would score 16 of their 26 points inside the paint as nothing was working from outside. They missed all five of their three-point shots.
“The first half looked like a football game. I didn’t think we were going to score. I thought this high-octane offense we have looked really bad. I think the main reason was it was their first time out to shoot,” said CSUF Head Coach Bob Burton of their anemic first-half offense.
CSULA would keep the lead for most of the first half because of the Titans’ ability to commit fouls. CSULA was 4-22 shooting (18 percent) but scored 14 points from the foul line to keep them in the game.
Vaughn’s reverse layup with 1:27 left in the first half gave CSUF its first lead at 24-22. CSUF led after the first half 26-24.
CSULA would stick around at the start of the second half with the score at 36-34. CSUF went on a 14-1 run with back-to-back threes by Umipig and senior guard Orlando Brown to put the game to bed. CSUF led with at most 19 points and would see out the win with the final score 71-56.
“We were getting great shots today. We could have moved the ball a little more I thought. We have to keep shooting. The second half we had a lot of transition buckets. The defense started to break down a little bit, fatigue hit them and that helped,” Vaughn said on the win.
The Titans found their scoring touch in the second half, shooting a very high 56 percent and bumping their game average to 40 percent. CSULA’s 29 of its 56 points came from free throws. It’s a problem Burton would like to work on.
“At times (our defense) was really good but the thing is the fouls and if you’re fouling you’re not playing good defense. If we can get that foul thing cleaned up we can be pretty good defensively,” he said.
The big surprise of the evening was junior John Underwood’s appearance in the game. On the same day, the 6’9” center won his appeal against the NCAA to be eligible for this season. He finished the game with seven points and four rebounds.
Because of injuries, CSUF started a small lineup, with last year’s starting point guard Perry Webster starting at forward. The senior finished the night with a game-high eight assists. The two players out for CSUF are UC Berkeley transfers Omondi Amoke and D.J. Seeley. The two are questionable for the next game.
The Titans’ season opener is against the University of Redlands Friday at 7 p.m. in Titan Gym.