Sophomore Isiah Umipig led all scorers with 34 points as Cal State Fullerton dominated the University of Redlands 118-68 in its Friday night season opener. The win was expected playing against a Division III non-scholarship school, but the margin of victory certainly turned a few heads.
“I was really happy, obviously with the way our guys played. We have a tremendous advantage against a Div. III non-scholarship school,” said CSUF Head Coach Bob Burton. “At least when the game was close in the beginning you can see the potential of our guys making shots and doing those things. So I thought that was encouraging.”
The Titans couldn’t miss. CSUF shot 55 percent during the game with five players scoring in double figures. The star of the evening was Umipig. The guard finished 8 of 12 from the three-point line on his way to 34 points.
The game also saw the debuts of UC Berkeley transfers D.J. Seeley and Omondi Amoke. The two weren’t slated to play because of injuries but put together impressive performances in their limited debuts. The junior guard Seeley was hot from the field, scoring 18 points in 17 minutes, and the senior forward Amoke managed to score 16 points and grab six rebounds while only playing 12 minutes.
“If (Amoke’s) healthy he could be one of the top rebounders in the country. He gets everything,” Burton said of his new forward.
Junior transfer John Underwood received his first start as a Titan. Underwood was supposed to be ineligible this season but won an NCAA hardship appeal. The forward will be a key addition to the team because of the size and length he provides.
“It feels good, man. I haven’t played since December so I just feel good being back starting,” said Underwood of his first college start. “I felt great, loose.
It was Redlands’ first time playing this season and is considered an exhibition and the loss won’t count against its record. Redlands shot for 33 percent during the game with senior center Jack Colston leading the Bulldogs with 14 points.
After the opening tip, CSUF went out to a 14-2 lead in less than five minutes and never looked back. Redlands tried a high-pressure defense that CSUF easily passed its way around to get open looks. CSUF shot for a staggering 64 percent in the first half.
CSUF’s star transfers ended the half in exciting fashion. Seeley sank a deep three with a man in his face, Amoke threw down a dunk and Vaughn finished the scoring with a layup at the buzzer to put the Titans up 70-27. The CSUF record for points in a half is 72. Umipig and Seeley led all scorers in the first half with 17 and 16 points, respectively.
Senior forward Andre Hardy was surprised at the point total. “Usually at the end of the game you have that many points,” said Hardy.
In the second half, CSUF mixed it up defensibly, playing a 2-3 zone instead of its usual man-to-man defense. Winning by that margin gives the Titans a chance to experiment. Burton also got a chance to play all of his players who dressed. For a majority of the second half, the Titan starters acted like cheerleaders, giving support to the team on the floor. Junior center Bernard Webb led all CSUF scorers off the bench in the second half with 10 points.
“They were all rooting for each other. It was a good team game, when they all got a chance to play and root for some of the other kids too. It was kind of one of those games,” Burton said of the team’s camaraderie.
The game finished at 118-68, the second most points in school history. The Titans were seven points shy of tying the school record for points scored and two shy for margin of victory.
“We emphasize defense this whole week in practice. We had a lot of hard practices and we emphasize defense, rebounding and getting into the passing lanes. It really showed and paid off today,” Hardy said on the win.
The Titans will travel to Lafayette, La., to play in a three-game tournament next weekend.