March 7, 2006

Big West Tournament Gives Titans Second Chance

March 7, 2006

Anaheim, Calif. -

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UPCOMING:
Wed., Mar. 8 -- at Big West Conference Tournament, Anaheim Convention Center (7,734), vs. Cal State Northridge, 8:30 p.m.

if victorious... Thursday, Mar. 9 - vs. either Long Beach State or Cal Poly at either 6 or 8:30 p.m. on KVMD-TV

semifinals Friday at 6 and 9 pm. on ESPNU and finals on Saturday at 9 p.m. on ESPN

IN A NUTSHELL: Cal State Fullerton (15-12, 5-9) gets a chance to erase a disappointing Big West Conference season with a successful Big West Tournament where the winner earns a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Titans are on a bit of a roll with four wins in their last five games and Sunday clinched back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in 21 years. They open with a Northridge team they have beaten twice -- 83-78 at Northridge on Jan. 7 and 81-63 in Titan Gym on Feb. 11.

"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. Todd Reeves calls the action this week.

ABOUT THE MATADORS: Cal State Northridge (11-16, 4-10) lost four of its last five games including an overtime decision to UC Santa Barbara on Saturday night. Mike Efevberha is the league's No. 3 scorer at 17.2 points per game and Calvin Chitwood and Jonathan Heard each average 12.2ppg. The Matadors have committed almost as many turnovers as they have forced -- 471 to 512 -- this season.

PROBABLE FULLERTON STARTERS:
No. Name Ht. Yr. ppg rpg Quick Notes
C 5 Justin Burns 6-6 Jr. 10.2 6.5
Career-high 22 points vs. South Dakota State; five double-doubles
G 3 Bobby Brown 6-1 Jr. 17.5 2.6
First-team All-Big West; BWC leading scorer; 39 assists last 5 games
F 1 Jamaal Brown 6-7 Sr. 16.5 8.4
Second-team All-Big West; eight double-doubles this year
G 0 Frank Robinson 6-4 So. 11.0 4.8
Averaging 15.8 points last 5 games as starter; 3rd in BWC in 3-pt. percentage
G 14 Jermaine Harper 6-3 Sr. 9.9 2.9
Averaging 12.9 points last 17 games; CSF's No. 8 career 3-point FG maker

OFF THE BENCH:
G 23 Vershan Cottrell 6-2 Sr. 5.6 3.4
Red-hot shooting last 4 games -- 10-for-12 FGs, 3-for-4 3's, 6-for-8 FTs
C 34 Gary Nunez 6-7 Jr. 2.6 1.4
Had 8 points, 4 rebounds in 11 minutes at FIU
G 22 John Clemmons 6-0 Sr. 2.5 1.6
Career-high 10 points vs. UCSB, at UC Irvine and at UC Davis
G 33 Jerard Moret 6-4 Fr. 3.0 2.5
Had career-high 13 points at UC Irvine; missed 4 games with broken finger
C 15 Curtis Battles 6-10 Jr. 1.7 1.5
Has played 42 minutes in team's past 15 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 16 minutes vs. Hope, at UC Irvine and vs. E. Washington

THE COACH: Bob Burton is 47-40 in his third year at Cal State Fullerton and career. At .540, Burton has the second best winning percentage of any Titans' head coach, trailing only Bobby Dye (109-78, .583). He is 1-2 in the Big West Tournament. He is 5-2 vs. Cal State Northridge, 0-1 in the Big West Tournament.

TOURNAMENT HISTORY: Fullerton is playing in its 28th conference tournament. Only Pacific (29th) has made more appearances. The Titans are 15-26 and won the tourney once, in 1978, on their way to the Elite Eight. Last year's team went 1-1 on its way to the NIT -- beating UC Santa Barbara, 66-55, in the quarterfinals and losing to Utah State in the semifinals, 84-77. The last previous tourney victory was in 1998 (89-82 over Boise State in Reno) and before that 1990 (82-63 over UC Irvine at Long Beach). Fullerton is 6-9 in BWC Tourney games at the Anaheim Convention Center and 11-17 in preliminary rounds.

WHAT HAPPENED THIS SEASON?: 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 all six returnees have produced improved individual scoring averages (Bobby Brown 17.5 ppg this year vs. 16.8 ppg last year; Jamaal Brown 16.5 ppg vs. 12.4 ppg; Justin Burns 10.2 ppg vs. 2.7 ppg; Jermaine Harper 9.9 ppg vs. 9.7 ppg; Vershan Cottrell 5.6 ppg vs. 1.8 ppg and John Clemmons 2.5 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 (11.0 ppg), Jerard Moret (3.0 ppg) and Gary Nunez (2.6 ppg), who have combined for only 16.6 ppg. The team statistics are basically the same as last year. The team record is only three games worse than last year (15-12 vs. 18-9) at this stage. 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 3-5 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 that 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 10-6 after leading at the half, 1-0 when tied and 4-6 when trailing. The Titans have held second-half leads in 9 of their 12 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; by 8 vs. UC Riverside and by 2 at Cal Poly. They have outscored the competition in first halves, 1,015-899, but have been outscored by 7 points in the second halves and by 6 points in overtime periods.

LIVE AND DIE BY THE THREE: Fullerton is 12-2 when it has a better 3-point field goal percentage than its opponent and 3-10 when it is inferior. When the Titans make more treys, they are 10-3, and when they make fewer, 3-9. They are 2-0 when the total is the same. In overall field goal percentage, Fullerton is 13-3 with a better percentage and 2-9 with a lesser number.

BROWNS PAYING THE PRICE: Junior Bobby (17.5 pg) and senior Jamaal (16.5 ppg) have scored 43 percent of the Titans' points this year and ranked Nos. 1 & 4, respectively, in the Big West Conference in scoring through March 5. They rank Nos. 1 and 3 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: Bobby Brown was selected to the All-Big West Conference first team Monday and recently was selected to the NABC All-District 15 second team, the only Big West Conference player represented among 150 players. The first team is Jordan Farmar and Aaron Afflalo of UCLA, Hassan Adams of Arizona and Gabe Pruitt and Nick Young of USC. Joining Brown on the second team are Louis Armundson of UNLV, Kevin Kruger of Arizona State, Matthew Knight of LMU and Nick Lewis of USD. Brown is the 18th member of the Titans' 1,000-point club and currently ranks No. 6 at 1,379. At No. 5 with 1,489 points is Greg Bunch (1973-78). With 39 assists in the last five games, Bobby now has 370 career assists to rank No. 4 on the Titans' career list and trail No. 3 Keith Anderson (1975-79) at 393. At Cal State Northridge on Jan. 7, Bobby passed Chris Dade to rank No. 1 in Titan career 3-point field goals and now has 220. 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; 2 and 19 (including overtime) vs. UC Riverside; 0 and 11 at Long Beach State and 7 and 18 at UCSB.

Jermaine Harper: The senior guard is averaging 12.9 points over the last 17 games. Over that span he has made 49-of-99 (.495) 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 eight games of 20 or more points and 18 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 .406. He has jumped into the No. 8 spot on the CSF career lists for 3-point field goals made (128) and the No. 10 spot for 3-pointers attempted (334).

JAMAAL THE INSIDE FORCE: Senior Jamaal Brown was selected to the All-Big West Conference second team, a step up from honorable mention status a year earlier. He was one rebound shy vs. UC Davis of four consecutive double-doubles but still has 8 this season and 16 for his career, which give him the fourth best CSF career total. He begins the week No. 4 in the conference in scoring and No. 2 in rebounding. 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. Jamaal begins the week No. 2 in the Big West with a .503 field goal percentage despite a 10-for-26 week against UC Davis and South Dakota State. Jamaal received the Lyle Parks, Jr., Titan Hustle Award last week from the Titan Hoop Club.

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 scored Fullerton's first 10 points at Long Beach State on his way to a then-career high of 21 points and topped that with 22 points vs. South Dakota State on Sunday. He has posted five double-doubles. His field-goal percentage of .542 would rank No. 2 in the Big West Conference had he made 4 more to meet the minimum qualification. His absence due to foul trouble was critical in the losses at USF, vs. Cal Poly, at Pacific and vs. UC Riverside. He begins the week ranked fifth in the Big West in rebounding at 6.5 per game and had a career-best 16 at UC Davis on Jan. 28. He had the best game of his career to that point at Cal State Northridge on Jan. 7, scoring 18 points and matching his previous rebounding best with 10. He nearly matched those numbers at UC Riverside with 17 points and 10 rebounds and had 17 and 12 vs. Davis on March 2.

SIXTH-MAN ROBINSON FLOURISHING AS STARTER: Sophomore Frank Robinson has been a model of consistency since starting the last five games. He has scored 16, 17, 18, 12 and 16 points on 6-for-11, 7-for-10, 7-for-13, 4-for-8 and 6-for-11 shooting including 14-of-28 from the 3-point line. Going back to his 4-for-4 effort off the bench vs. Long Beach State, he is 18-for-32 (.563) in the last six games and had taken over the Big West Conference lead at .456 before falling to a current No. 3 ranking at .450. He is the team's No. 3 scorer and rebounder despite coming off the bench in 21 games. He scored Fullerton's first 14 points at Cal Poly on Feb. 25. 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.

SHARP-SHOOTING COTTRELL: The 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 Feb. 4. On the final road trip he missed only one shot -- a free throw. He was 7-for-7 from the floor including 3-of-3 from trey-land and 3-of-4 at the foul line. Last year he averaged roughly 2 points and 1 rebound but this year is at 5.6 points and 3.4 rebounds and has started 18 times.

CLEMMONS MORE THAN A CADDY: 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 (62/25) is outstanding at 2.48-to-1 (the Big West leader is CSUN's Bakari Altheimer at 1.87) but Clemmons needs to have 3 assists per game to qualify for the conference leader board and currently he is averaging only 2.38. 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.

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 a 67-62 home loss to Pacific on Feb. 23 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 in Austria. 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.

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 and was 4 of 9 at home, CSUN's Mike Efevberha made 8 of his last 9 tries (8 of 11 overall) in a narrow Fullerton win and UCR's Dedrick Bates (1 of 16 on the season) made 4 of 4 on Jan. 14. Long Beach State set a school record by making 14 in 34 attempts on Jan. 19 and then improved to 14 for 26 in the rematch on Feb. 16.

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.