February 10, 2006

Titans Try Again to Stop Titan Gym Woes

Feb. 10, 2006

Fullerton, Calif. -

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UPCOMING:
Sat., Feb. 11 -- Cal State Northridge, Titan Gym (4,000), 2:05 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 15 -- at Long Beach State, Walter Pyramid (5,000), 7:35 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 18 -- eBay Bracket Buster, vs. Eastern Washington, Titan Gym (4,000), 2:05 p.m.

IN A NUTSHELL: Cal State Fullerton (10-10, 3-7) plays its final home Big West Conference game Saturday vs. Cal State Northridge (9-11, 3-6). The Titans have lost five Big West games in a row including four at home to fall to 3-5 in Titan Gym, where they were 18-8 in Coach Bob Burton's first two seasons. There are three more home games after Saturday but all are non-conference contests.

"RADIO": ALL Titan games can be heard live on the internet on computers with sound cards. Listeners may access the CSF Athletics home page at www.fullertontitans.com and follow the links. All ROAD Big West Conference games can be heard on KSPA (1510 AM) with Justin Alderson calling the action.

ABOUT THE MATADORS: Cal State Northridge (9-11, 3-6) is coming off a 74-56 victory at UC Riverside on Thursday night that snapped a 3-game losing streak. Mike Efevberha is the conference's leading scorer at 17.8 points per game as he has scored one more point than the Titans' Bobby Brown, each of whom had only 9 points on Thursday night. Efevberha erupted for 39 points in CSUN's 83-78 home loss to the Titans on Jan. 7. Jonathan Heard is among the league's top five in field goal percentage and had a team-high 20 points off the bench at Riverside.

PROBABLE FULLERTON STARTERS:
No. Name Ht. Yr. ppg rpg Quick Notes
C 5 Justin Burns 6-6 Jr. 9.2 6.8
Posted three double-doubles in last nine games; 16 rebounds at UC Davis
G 3 Bobby Brown 6-1 Jr. 17.7 2.8
CSF's No. 9 career score is 0-for-11 in 3-pointers in last two games
F 1 Jamaal Brown 6-7 Sr. 16.7 8.4
Double-double (19 pts., 12 rebs.) vs. UCR despite face mask for broken nose
G 23 Vershan Cottrell 6-2 Sr. 5.7 3.6
Career highs of 8 rebounds, 6 assists to go with 12 points at UC Riverside
G 14 Jermaine Harper 6-3 Sr. 9.3 3.0
Had 21 points at UC Davis; averaging 13.8 points over last 10 games

OFF THE BENCH:
G 0 Frank Robinson 6-4 So. 9.7 4.7
Team's No. 3 scorer and rebounder comes off bench
C 34 Gary Nunez 6-7 Jr. 2.9 1.7
Had 8 points, 4 rebounds in 11 minutes at FIU
G 22 John Clemmons* 6-0 Sr. 2.8 1.7
Career-high 10 points vs. UCSB, at UC Irvine and at UC Davis
G 33 Jerard Moret 6-4 Fr. 3.9 2.9
Had career-high 13 points at UC Irvine; missed 4 games with broken finger
C 15 Curtis Battles 6-10 Jr. 2.0 2.0
Has played 34 minutes in past eight games
C 52 Manny Montano 6-10 Jr.1.4 0.8
Palomar College transfer hasn't played in conference games
G 11 Damien Massey 5-11 RFr. 0.0 0.0
Has played only 13 minutes vs. Hope and at UC Irvine

THE COACH: Bob Burton is 42-38 in his third year at Cal State Fullerton and career. At .525, Burton has the second best winning percentage of any Titans' head coach, trailing only Bobby Dye (109-78, .583). He is 4-2 vs. Cal State Northridge, 1-1 in Titan Gym.

SERIES HISTORY: Cal State Fullerton leads the all-time series vs. Cal State Northridge, 26-23, thanks to a current 3-game winning streak. All three wins have been close -- 83-78 at Northridge on Jan. 7 and 72-70 and 71-70 in OT last year. The teams have split 10 games since CSUN entered the Big West with a split of four games in Titan Gym.

WHAT HAPPENED?: Most of the pre-season publications and polls picked Fullerton to win the Big West Conference with Pacific the primary challenger despite Coach Bob Burton's protestation that the losses of second-team All-Big West senior forwards Ralphy Holmes and Yaphett King and senior forward Hardy Asprilla (who missed half of the season) would be difficult to overcome. While five of the six returnees have produced improved individual scoring averages (Bobby Brown 17.7 ppg this year vs. 16.8 ppg last year; Jamaal Brown 16.7 ppg vs. 12.4 ppg; Justin Burns 9.2 ppg vs. 2.7 ppg; Jermaine Harper 9.3 ppg vs. 9.7 ppg; Vershan Cottrell 5.7 ppg vs. 1.8 ppg and John Clemmons 2.8 ppg vs. 1.9 ppg), the newcomers have been unable to fill the void. Holmes (16.9 ppg) and King (13.8 ppg) combined for 30.7 ppg and Asprilla averaged 8.5 in 12 games. They have basically been replaced by Frank Robinson (9.7 ppg), Jerard Moret (3.9 ppg) and Gary Nunez (2.9 ppg), who have combined for only 16.5 ppg. The team statistics are basically the same as last year. For other differences, read on.

CLOSE GAMES: Pick your measuring stick -- last season, Fullerton was 7-4 in games that went down to the final shot, 6-0 in games decided by 1 or 2 points and 3-0 in overtime. This year's team is 1-3 in overtime and 2-4 in games decided by 5 points or less. Fullerton missed game-winning shots in the final seconds of regulation at USF and vs. UCR and missed free throws allowed Long Beach State to make two buzzer-beating treys. Fullerton missed two potential game-winning shots at UC Davis and survived two by the Aggies before opening a 12-point lead in the third overtime and maintaining enough of it to survive a Davis 3-pointer at the buzzer. Both games vs. Pacific were tied with about 5 minutes to play and the Tigers won both with 17-8 and 14-9 finishes.

SECOND-HALF SWOONS: Fullerton is 6-6 after leading at the half, 1-0 when tied and 3-4 when trailing. The Titans have held second-half leads in 8 of their 10 losses: by as many as 19 points in the second half before losing at USF, by 7 vs. Texas-San Antonio, by 5 vs. Cal Poly, by 2 at Pacific and by 2 at home vs. Pacific, by 5 vs. Long Beach State, by 7 vs. UC Irvine and by 8 vs. UC Riverside. They have outscored the competition in first halves, 736-650, but have been outscored by 43 points in the second halves and by 6 points in overtime periods.

BENCH INCONSISTENT, TOO: Fullerton's reserves have scored only 22 points TOTAL in the last four home games. In between, the reserves erupted for 46 of the team's 68 points at UC Irvine and 29 of 94 at UC Davis.

UNFRIENDLY CONFINES OF TITAN GYM: The Titans have lost four home games in a row and five of the last six, all in Big West Conference play. Last year's team was 10-2 at home, losing only to UCI and Pacific. Under Coach Bob Burton, the Titans are now 21-13 (.618) in Titan Gym -- 8-6, 10-2 and currently 3-5.

BRACKET BUSTERS: Fullerton will host Eastern Washington in a non-televised game at 2:05 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18.

BROWNS PAYING THE PRICE: Junior Bobby (17.7 pg) and senior Jamaal (16.7 ppg) have scored 44 percent of the Titans' points this year and rank Nos. 2 & 4, respectively, in the Big West Conference in scoring. They rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the Big West in minutes played and both are far from 100 percent healthy. Bobby had some back and ankle problems and Jamaal has had back and nose problems.

ALL EYES ON BOBBY: The opposing defenses and professional scouts have kept Bobby Brown under close scrutiny this year. He is the 18th member of the Titans' 1,000-point club and currently ranks No. 9 at 1,261. At No. 8 with 1,284 points is Cedric Ceballos (1988-89 and 1989-90). In the 4-game home losing streak, Bobby has 13 assists and 15 turnovers. He is averaging 15 points on 22-for-62 shooting (.354) and is only 4-for-22 (182) from the 3-point arc including 0-for-11 in the last two games. The only other time he has gone consecutive games without a trey was the first two games of his freshman season. Bobby has 319 career assists and needs 20 more to crack the all-time Titan top five. At Cal State Northridge on Jan. 7 he passed Chris Dade to rank No. 1 in Titan career 3-point field goals and now has 205. He made the all-tournament team at both USF and FIU. He has had some remarkably dissimilar scoring halves this season, to wit: 6 in the first half and 18 in the second half at San Jose State; 6 and 22 vs. Cal Poly; 10 and 0 vs. UCSB; 0 and 17 vs. CSU Northridge; 18 and 4 at Pacific; 0 and 17 (including overtimes) at UC Davis and 2 and 19 (including overtime) vs. UC Riverside.

JAMAAL THE INSIDE FORCE: Senior Jamaal Brown sat out almost the entire second half at UCI due to back problems after scoring only 4 points with 3 rebounds and then broke his nose with about 9 minutes to play at UC Davis after totaling 8 points and 3 rebounds. He posted his third 30-point game of the year with 31 vs. Long Beach State on Jan. 19, making 13 of 16 shots. In December he became only the third Titan (Leon Wood and Cedric Ceballos) to post back-to-back 30-point games with 30 vs. Chicago State and 36 at USF on Dec. 9 & 10. His 36-point one-game effort is topped only by Richard Morton's Div. I school record of 38 (vs. UC Irvine, 1/7/88). Ironically, Morton, currently the head coach of the San Francisco Pilots ABA team, was in attendance that night. Brown has had five double-doubles (30 points, 13 rebounds vs. Chicago State; 13 points, 12 rebounds at Florida International; 16 points, 11 rebounds at CSU Northridge; 31 points and 10 boards vs. Long Beach State and 19 points and 12 rebounds vs. UCR) to go with eight last year for a total of 13 for seventh place on the Titans' career list. He began the week No. 3 in the Big West with a .494 field goal percentage.

Jermaine Harper: The senior guard is averaging 13.8 points over the last 10 games. Over that span he has made 30-of-65 (.462) from the 3-point line. In the first 10 games of the season he was 9-of-44 (.204) from trey-land and averaged 4.7 points. In his Titan career he has had seven games of 20 or more points and 16 of 4 points or less. Last year he made 70 of 191 treys (.366 percentage) and tied for fifth most in a season by a Titan. This season he is shooting .358 and is on pace to make about 55. He has jumped into the No. 10 spots on the career lists for 3-point field goals made (106) and attempted (293).

BURNS CONTINUES TO IMPROVE: Junior Justin Burns was easily the most improved Titan player from the end of last season through the November-December schedule and he has continued to make progress. He has posted three double-doubles in the last nine games. His absence due to foul trouble was critical in the losses at USF, vs. Cal Poly, at Pacific and vs. UC Riverside. He began the week ranked fifth in the Big West in rebounding at 6.7 per game and had a career-best 16 at UC Davis on Jan. 28. He had the best game of his career at Cal State Northridge on Jan. 7, scoring a career-high 18 points and matching his previous rebounding best with 10. He nearly matched those numbers at UC Riverside with 17 points and 10 rebounds. At CSUN he attempted 20 free throws (making 12) to come up only two shy of the CSF school record of 22 attempts by Leon Wood on Nov. 19, 1981, vs. Texas-Arlington.

Vershan Cottrell: The other senior off guard continues to play above his 2004-05 level. He was the Titans' leading scorer (15 points) at Kansas State and he made all 5 shots in the first half vs. Cal Poly on his way to 12 points. At UC Riverside he had 12 points (all in the first half) along with career highs of 8 rebounds and 6 assists. He again had 8 rebounds vs. UCR on Saturday. Last year he averaged roughly 2 points and 1 rebound but this year is at 5.7 points and 3.6 rebounds and has started 16 times.

ROBINSON BREAKS SLUMP: Sophomore Frank Robinson had been the key Titan off the bench before earning a starter's role for one game -- at Pacific on Jan. 9. Since then, his contributions have been inconsistent. He scored only 9 points in the next 3 games. But he led the team at UC Irvine with 17 points and had 4 rebounds and 3 steals and then came off the bench for 13 points and 8 rebounds in 25 minutes at UC Davis before fouling out. Vs. UCR on Saturday he had 7 points in 11 first-half minutes but no points in 7 minutes in the second half and overtime. Against Pacific he got into foul trouble and had 5 points and no rebound in 16 minutes. He is the Titans' No. 3 scorer at 9.7 points per game and the No. 3 rebounder at 4.7 per game. Twice he has scored 20 points -- vs. Hope and at CSUN. In the Florida International Tournament, he had 9 steals in the two games and made the all-tournament team.

John Clemmons: The third senior guard has emerged as much more than Bobby Brown's caddy. He has provided a consistent defensive spark off the bench at point guard and has played substantial minutes with Brown moving to off guard. Clemmons had a career-high 10 points vs. UCSB including a career-best two 3-point field goals (in 2 tries) and matched those numbers at UCI and again at UC Davis. His assist/turnover ratio (50/20) is outstanding at 2.50-to-1 (the Big West leader is CSUN's Bakari Altheimer at 2.26) but Clemmons needs to have 3 assists per game to qualify for the conference leader board and currently he is averaging only 2.63. He had 7 assists and no turnovers in 14 minutes vs. Long Beach State and 4 assists and 1 turnover in 15 minutes vs. UC Irvine on Jan. 21.

WESTCHESTER CONNECTION: Assistant Coach Marlon Morton joined the Titans' staff this year after a long career assisting at Westchester High School, one of California's most successful prep basketball programs in recent times. He sees a lot of familiar faces since Bobby Brown, John Clemmons, Jerard Moret and redshirts Scott Cutley and Jarrel Lake all played for the Comets.

LOOKING BACK: Last year's team accomplished a remarkable number of positive statistics and records, most notably tying for the second most victories (21) in a Div. I season (23 in 1977-78 and 21 in 1982-83) and posting only the third and fourth post-season (NIT) wins in school history to complete the first winning season since 1992-93. The Titans have not had consecutive winning seasons since 1983-84 and 1984-85.

THREE IS A BAD NUMBER: Fullerton opponents are having some sensational games with the 3-point basket. USF's Dommanic Ingerson made 6 of 7 in the final 11 minutes to lead a Don overtime win, Cal Poly's Dawin Whiten made 6 of 9 to lead a Mustang victory in the Big West opener, CSUN's Mike Efevberha made 8 of his last 9 tries (8 of 11 overall) in a narrow Fullerton win, UCR's Dedrick Bates (1 of 16 on the season) made 4 of 4 on Jan. 14 and then Long Beach State set a school record by making 14 in 34 attempts.

NATIONAL TV: Since advancing to the Western Regional Finals of the 1978 NCAA Tournament, the Titans have received minimal televison coverage beyond regional networks and they are winless on national broadcasts. The latest was Thursday night's 67-62 home loss to Pacific on ESPN2. In reverse chronological order, the Titans also lost at Pacific on CSTV on Jan. 7 of this season; at Georgetown in the 2005 NIT on March 22 on ESPN; at home in OT to Long Beach State on Feb. 19, 1990, on ESPN and at UC Santa Barbara in OT on Jan. 29, 1990.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Seven players on last year's team are no longer on the roster. Ralphy Holmes graduated in August and is playing in the CBA with the Yakama team. Yaphett King is playing professionally overseas. Hardy Asprilla remains in school and is assisting the players with academics while providing an experienced and inspirational voice from near the bench. Derek Quinet had two years of eligibility remaining but decided to focus on his classroom work this year. Danny Lambert quit the team in October and redshirt Adam Tancredi quit on Dec. 11. Drew Awad passed away on Dec. 26 after battling for more than a year against a reoccurrence of leukemia.

GO EAST YOUNG MEN: Cal State Fullerton in December played on the East Coast (Miami, FL) for the third time in 14 months after making only one appearance there in the previous 30 years (at Providence, Connecticut and Richmond in 1974-75). The Titans opened last season at a tournament at Central Connecticut State in New Britain and ended it with a post-season NIT game at Georgetown in the nation's capital.