The Titans moved past UC Santa Barbara for first place with a 68-54 victory over Cal Poly SLO on Jan. 14, their third win in a row, but their stay at the top lasted only 48 hours.
Cal State Fullerton lost at home to Cal State Northridge, 78-72, on Jan. 16, allowing Pacific to take the conference lead.
Cal State Fullerton was 6-0 at Titan Gym and had won four of its last five games when the resurgent Matadors came in looking for their third consecutive victory after losing seven in a row from Dec. 6 to Jan. 7.
The Titans continued a troublesome trend, falling behind by 17 points before surging back into the game. This time they got within three points in the final minute but couldn’t complete the comeback.
“It’s unbelievable,” coach Bob Burton of Cal State Fullerton told the Orange County Register. “I don’t know what the answer is.
“The only problem is tonight it was really hard to recover. It seems we fall behind early, but in other games we caught up and had something going. We never seemed to be in this one.”
Junior guard Devon Peltier came off the bench to score 23 points on 7 of 14 shooting with five rebounds. All seven of the shots Peltier made and 13 of the shots he took were from three-point range.
“Peltier is a phenomenal shooter,” Burton told the Register. “If it wasn’t for him, it would have been really bad. He did his part. If we could have just had some other guys step up …”
Despite the loss to Cal State Northridge, the Titans remain very much in the mix in the Big West.
One of the more encouraging developments over the last week was the way they defended Cal Poly guard Lorenzo Keeler, who had a career-high 38 points against UC Irvine on Jan. 4.
Keeler had just been selected Big West Conference Player of the Week after averaging 26 points in three games the previous week. The Titans held him to 13 points on 2-of-11 shooting, and senior forward Aaron Thompson received much of the credit.
“(Keeler) had really been on a tear,” Burton told the Register. “We talked with Thompson for two days about how great (Keeler) had been playing. We offered the challenge to him and to the whole team.
“It wasn’t just his, but it was everybody’s responsibility that guarded him. Aaron really stepped up. It probably took a lot out of his offense—he had two points—but what he gave us defensively was way more important.”
• There were 47 fouls called in Cal State Fullerton’s game against Cal Poly, and the teams combined to shoot 69 free throws. The Titans made 30 of 37, or 81.1 percent, and the Mustangs made 19 of 32, 59.4 percent. Cal State Fullerton’s Bryce Webster and Aaron Thompson and Cal Poly’s Shawn Lewis fouled out.
• Bob Burton coached his 200th game at Cal State Fullerton when the Titans played host to Cal State Northridge on Jan. 16, but the Matadors spoiled the occasion by winning, 78-72. Burton, in his eighth season as head coach, is 115-85.
On The Spot: PG Jacques Streeter is in the midst of a sophomore slump. His scoring average is the same as last season, his rebounds and assists are down slightly, and his shooting percentages have dropped significantly. Streeter averages 10.4 points, 4.3 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game. Those numbers are good even if they aren’t better than last year’s averages, but he is shooting 36.2 percent from the field and 30.2 percent from three-point range after shooting 43.5 percent from the field and 42.1 percent from three-point range last season.
Quote To Note: “We’ve talked to them all year long about defense. If you play good defense, you’re always going to be in it.”—Cal State Fullerton coach Bob Burton, to the Orange County Register, after the Titans held Cal Poly to 33.3 percent shooting.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Season Recap: Cal State Fullerton coach Bob Burton might have the most balanced team in the Big West Conference. His top six scorers average between nine and 10.6 points per game, and he has four players averaging between 4.5 and 6.1 rebounds. Unlike recent years, the Titans have one of the biggest lineups in the conference with 6-0 G Jacques Streeter, 6-4 F Aaron Thompson, 6-6 F Gerard Anderson, 6-6 F JerVaughn Johnson and 6-10 C Bryce Webster. The Titans rank first in the Big West in free throw shooting (72.8 percent), three-point percentage (36.8 percent), three-point goals per game (7.3), defensive rebounds per game (26) and blocked shots per game (3.1). They are second in scoring margin (plus-2.9) and field goal percentage (44.8 percent), third in field goal percentage defense (41.8 percent), and fourth in three-point percentage defense (36.2) percent and rebound margin (plus-0.2).
- UC Davis 67, Cal State Fullerton 63
- Cal State Fullerton 85, Long Beach State 75
- Cal State Fullerton 69, UC Riverside 56
- Cal State Fullerton 68, Cal Poly 54
- Cal State Northridge 78, Cal State Fullerton 72
- at Pacific, Thursday, Jan. 21
- at UC Santa Barbara, Saturday, Jan. 23
- at Cal State Bakersfield, Monday, Jan. 26
- vs. UC Irvine, Saturday, Jan. 30
- at Long Beach State, Thursday, Feb. 4
In Focus: Cal State Fullerton will visit Pacific on Jan. 21 with a chance to move back into first place in the Big West Conference. The Titans trail the Tigers and UC Santa Barbara by one-half game after losing to Cal State Northridge. The game will feature two of the Big West’s best big men. Senior F JerVaughn Johnson is averaging 10.6 points and 6.4 rebounds for the Titans, and junior F Sam Willard is averaging 10.1 points and 7.8 rebounds for the Tigers.
• Senior F Aaron Thompson has improved his numbers across the board. He averaged 7.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 0.7 steals while shooting 43.9 percent from the field and 64.8 percent from the free throw line last season. This season, he is averaging a team-high 10.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 steals while shooting 49.6 percent from the field and 71.8 percent from the free throw line. Thompson’s three-point shooting percentage has risen most dramatically, from 23.5 percent last season to 55.6.
• The Titans third-leading scorer and leading rebounder is F JerVaughn Johnson, a 6-6, 240-pound junior who played for San Diego State from 2006-08. Johnson is averaging 10.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. He had his second double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds in the Jan. 14 victory over Cal Poly.
• Junior G Devon Peltier appears to be responding to the continuous confidence coach Bob Burton has showed in him. Burton has urged Peltier to keep shooting despite the occasional off night, like when he made 2 of 11 shots from the field, including 1 of 8 from three-point range against Long Beach State on Jan. 7. Peltier obliged, averaging 16 points on 15-of-24 shooting from the field and 14-of-22 shooting from three-point range over the last three games. He had a season-high 23 points on 7-of-14 shooting against Cal State Northridge on Jan. 16.