March 10, 2008

Titans Shoot for Tourney Title, NCAA Berth

March 10, 2008

Anaheim, Calif. -

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UPCOMING:
Thur., Mar. 13 -- at Big West Conference Tournament, Anaheim Convention Center Arena (7,734), 6 p.m.
vs. lowest remaining seed (No. 6 Cal Poly, No. 7 UC Riverside or No. 8 Long Beach State)
Wednesday: 6 p.m. -- No. 5 UC Irvine vs. No. 8 Long Beach State; followed by No. 6 Cal Poly vs. No. 7 UC Riverside
Friday: 6 p.m. -- No. 1 UC Santa Barbara vs. lowest remaining seed; followed by No. 2 Cal State Northridge vs. remaining seed
Saturday: 8 p.m. -- Championship game

IN A NUTSHELL: On the 30th anniversary of their only victory in the conference post-season tournament, the Titans (21-8, 12-4) bring a school-record equalling total of 21 regular-season victories and only the second conference co-championship (1976) to Anaheim as the No. 3 seed (lost all tie-breakers due to 0-2 record vs. UCSB). The tourney champion gets an NCAA Tournament berth and there is a possible post-season NIT bid available for the runner(s)up.

GOOD 30th ANNIVERSARY VIBES: Parallels between the 1978 Titan NCAA team and this year's squad:
Both were No. 3 seeds in the conference tournament.
Both came into the tournament with 8 losses.
Both went into the tourney on a 3-game winning streak.
Both featured the school's only conference players (co-) of the year in seniors forwards Greg Bunch (1976) and Scott Cutley.
Both Coach Bobby Dye and Coach Bob Burton were in their fifth season at Fullerton.
Both revolved around a 6-man rotation -- Bunch, Anderson, Niles, Heenan, Shaw & Linden; Cutley, Robinson, Akognon, Reed, Morgan & Crenshaw
Both teams played and defeated Cal State Los Angeles, an opponent the Titans did not see in the intervening 29 seasons.

ALSO ACCOMPLISHED SO FAR: This is only the fourth time at the Div. I level that Fullerton has won as many as 21 games in a season (also twice at Div. II) and the first time it has won 20 in back-to-back seasons. Fullerton has posted four consecutive winning seasons for the first time since George McQuarn's teams did it in 1981-82 thru 1984-85 and matched that team for the school's best conference record (12-4). The Titans at 9-5 (10-5 including neutral) are guaranteed their fourth consecutive season of .500 play or better on the road. Only the 2004-05 team also won nine games on hostile courts in a single season. The Titans have broken the school record (was 261) for steals with 267 to date and the record (was 253) for 3-point field goals with 257.

WITHIN REACH: The Titans are threatening the school scoring records set last year of 2,462 points and an average of 82.1 points. The current numbers are 2,399 points and an 82.7 point average.

AUDIO: 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 will call the tournament games.

VIDEO: All Big West Conference Tournament games are available via videostreaming on a subscription basis. Details are available on the Big West website at www.bigwest.org. The quarterfinals will be televised on KVMD, the semifinals on ESPNU and the finals on ESPN2.

PROBABLE STARTERS:
No. Name Ht. Yr. ppg r/apg Quick Notes F 2 Scott Cutley* 6-5 Sr. 14.6 7.7r Only second CSF player tabbed conference co-player of the year
F 34 Marcus Morgan* 6-5 Jr. 5.9 6.2r Matched career high with 13 points vs. UoP; had 11 rebounds at Saint Mary's
G 1 Josh Akognon 5-11 Jr. 19.6 3.3r Selected second team All-District 15 by NABC & All-Big West
G 22 Ray Reed* 5-11 Sr. 6.2 2.6a Averaging 11.7 points and 5.6 assists last 7 games
F 5 Frank Robinson** 6-4 Sr. 16.1 6.9r 18th Titan to score 1,000 points & 10th w/500 boards; 2nd team All-BWC
OFF THE BENCH:
G 54 Marcus Crenshaw* 5-10 Jr. 9.4 2.2a Shot well (4 of 8, 2 of 4 treys) at UCI minus protective mask for broken nose
C 21 Kenneth Alexander* 6-6 Sr. 3.0 2.2r Career-high 17 pts. off the bench at Southern Utah; solid 15 minutes at CSUN
C 42 Andrew Green* 6-6 Sr. 3.1 2.6r Grabbed 7 rebounds in 20 minutes at UC Riverside
G 11 Marcio Lassiter 6-2 Jr. 3.4 0.5a Career-high 17 points in career-high 25 minutes vs. UCR
C 13 Eddie Lima 6-9 Jr. 1.7 1.2r Has played only 12 minutes since November
G 15 Junior Russell 5-6 Jr. 6.1 2.6a Suspended indefinitely on Feb. 6 for violation of team rules; reinstated Mar. 3
*previous CSF letters earned

THE COACH: Bob Burton has been selected the NABC District 15 Coach of the Year. He is 89-59 in his fifth season at Cal State Fullerton and career. At .602, Burton has moved ahead of Bobby Dye (109-78, .583) as the winningest coach in Titan history. He is the only Fullerton coach with a winning conference record, currently at 45-35 (.563). Dye was 37-37. Burton is 3-4 in the Big West Tourney, beating UCSB, CSUN and UoP and losing to CSUN, Utah State, CSULB and Cal Poly.

THESE 30 ROAD WINS MUCH QUICKER: Under Bob Burton, the Titans have made dramatic strides as a road team. In the past three seasons plus this season to date, they are 38-30 (.559) away from Titan Gym (6-5 on neutral floors) with a "hostile court" mark of 32-25 -- 9-7 in 2004-05; 7-6 in 2005-06; 7-7 last season and 9-5 to date this year. For the previous 10 seasons (1994-95 thru 2003-04) the combined road (including neutral) record was 30-115 (.207). With a 3-11 mark in his first season (2003-04), Burton's total CSF away record is 41-41 (.500).

NATIONAL STATISTICS: Through games of Mar. 9, Josh Akognon was No. 4 in the nation in free-throw percentage at .917 (No. 1 was Jamar Butler of Ohio State at .940). Akognon ranked No. 11 in 3-point field goals made per game (3.61) and the Titans as a team ranked No. 24 at 8.9. The Titans were No. 5 in team scoring at 82.7 ppg.

CUTLEY THE GLUE: Senior forward Scott Cutley is arguably the most indispensable Titan and the coaches voted him the Co-Player of the Year in the Big West. A back injury which occurred at UCSB on Feb. 7 and was aggravated in practice and again vs. Long Beach State has limited his mobility but not his production. On Feb. 18 he was selected Big West Conference Player of the Week for his role in wins over UC Davis and Pacific when he averaged 22 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals while shooting 70 percent from the floor including 4 of 5 from 3-point range. His 24 points vs. UoP were a season high at that time and his 5 steals were a career high. He posted new season highs of 25 points and 13 rebounds vs. the 49ers and came back with 23 points and 11 rebounds March 4 in Bakersfield. His season almost ended before it started. He fractured his ankle on the second day of practice (Oct. 13) but returned to the practice floor six weeks later during Thanksgiving weekend, missing 3 games before coming off the bench at Arizona. Last season he missed only one game despite a broken thumb. He currently is ranked No. 2 in the Big West in rebounding at 7.7 rpg per game, No. 8 in scoring at 14.6 points per game, No. 8 in assists at 2.69 per game, No. 3 in field goal percentage at .521 and No. 4 in minutes played at 32.62 per game. He posted three consecutive double-doubles vs. Central Michigan, Southern Utah and Montana and just missed a triple-double vs. the Thunderbirds. He has a total of 8 double-doubles this year and 19 in his two-year CSF career. He is 67-of-113 (.593) from the floor in the last 10 games.

AKOGNON LIKES THE TEMPO: Josh Akognon entered the CSF record book twice on Feb. 28 despite a sub-par shooting night, again on March 1 and he is on pace for one more seasonal record. His second 3-pointer of the Feb. 27 CSUN game was No. 90 to break Cal State Fullerton's single-season record of 89 by Don Leary in 1992-93 and he now sits at 101. By making two first-half free throws he ran his streak to 37 consecutive makes to tie Kevin Henderson's record set in 1985-86. But he missed his only try of the second half to avoid setting a new standard. On March 1 he surpassed Bobby Brown's single-season record of 244 3-point field goal attempts and now sits at 259. And at .917 he is ahead of Joe Small's 1991-92 free-throw percentage record of .876. Akognon has made four or more treys in a game 16 times with a best of seven on three occasions. The Washington State transfer led the Cougars in scoring in 2005-06 and made just under two treys per game while averaging 10.3 points. He is the Big West leader in 3-point baskets (3.61 per game) and free-throw percentage (.917 on 88 of 96) and he is the No. 3 scorer at 19.6 ppg. At Saint Mary's he grabbed a career-high 9 rebounds and he had 7 at Northridge on Feb. 2 and at Cal Poly on Feb. 9. He had a season high of 6 steals vs. UC Davis on Feb. 14 and matched his career high with 6 assists vs. Portland State on Feb. 23. He has scored 30 or more points four times. On Mar. 4 he was selected to the second team NABC All-District 15 team with UCSB's Alex Harris, Arizona's Chase Budinger, New Mexico State's Justin Hawkins and UNLV's Wink Adams. The first team is Kevin Love and Darren Collison of UCLA, O. J. Mayo of USC, Jerryd Bayless of Arizona and James Harden of Arizona State. On Monday he was selected second-team All-Big West.

ROBINSON HITS 1,000/500: Frank Robinson became the 18th Titan to score 1,000 career points late in the first half vs. UC Davis on Feb. 14 and now has 1,104 to rank 15th. Next ahead is Pape Sow at 1,135. With the first of his six rebounds Saturday at UC Irvine he became only the tenth Titan to hit 500 and is now No. 9 at 505. Bruce Bowen is No. 8 at 559. Robinson was selected Big West player of the week on Feb. 4 and on Monday was selected second-team All-Big West Conference. With 133 3-pointers he is tied for No. 7 on the CSF list with Mark Murphy. No. 6 is Richard Morton with 140. Since sitting out the Dec. 17 Southern Utah game with an ankle injury, Robinson has played consistently well. He ranks No. 4 in scoring (16.1 ppg) and No. 4 in rebounding (6.9 rpg) in the Big West Conference. He's had five double-doubles -- at Central Michigan with 15 points and 10 rebounds; vs. UCI with 17 points and 10 rebounds; at CSUN with 14 points and 10 boards and two back-to-back with 20 points and 11 boards vs. Portland State and 17 points and 10 boards vs. CSUN. He has been one rebound shy of three more. He is only 6-for-37 (.162) in treys the last 7 games after going 8-for-13 (615) on the Central Coast trip to UCSB and Cal Poly.

MORGAN SHINES IN TOUGHEST SPOTS: Marcus Morgan has had his best statistical games against the tougher opponents this season. At Arizona he scored 13 points and grabbed 9 rebounds while playing solid defense. At Saint Mary's he had another strong defensive game and had 7 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. Against Pacific on Feb. 16 he matched his career high with 13 points (5 of 6 shooting) and had four offensvie rebounds. His biggest play of the year was blocking the potential game-winning layup by Montana's Andrew Strait with one second left in regulation on Dec. 20. He has made 21 of 30 (.700) free throws since going 0-for-5 vs. UC Irvine on Jan. 4. He has had double-digit rebound totals 3 times. CRENSHAW'S ROLE ALWAYS CHANGING: Junior guard Marcus Crenshaw had surgery on Feb. 19 to repair his broken nose and returned to score 6 points against CSUN. After the Cal Poly game of Feb. 9 in which he was injured, he was averaging 10.1 points and shooting .437 from behind the 3-point line. Against UCI on Saturday he played without a protective mask for the first time and made 4 of 8 shots, 2 of 4 treys, for 10 points. In the previous 5 games, he was averaging only 5.8 points and shooting only .304 from behind the arc. The Big West Conference's Sixth Man of the Year in 2006-07 was thrust into the starting lineup on Feb. 7 due to the suspension of Junior Russell. At UCSB he matched his career high with 23 points -- 21 in the second half -- and had 9 early in the second half at Cal Poly when he was hit in the nose and suffered a concussion which sidelined him for the balance of the game. He ranks as the Titans' No. 4 scorer at 9.4 points per game. He earlier started at Montana and Central Michigan after 31 consecutive appearances off the bench. He also started his first three games as a Titan in November of 2006 when the roster was short three suspended players. With 147 3-point baskets as a Titan, he is No. 4 on the CSF career list. No. 3 is Chris St. Clair with 185. In Big West games, Crenshaw is equally proficient shooting treys home and road -- 15-for-36 (.417) at home and 20-for-48 (.417) on the road.

REED STEPS UP: Senior guard Ray Reed has stepped up his play since getting his first start on Jan. 23 in Josh Akognon's absence. He is averaging 9.7 points over the last 12 games while shooting .545 (42-for-77) from the floor. In the last five games he's averaging 12.8 ppg and 4.8 assists. As a starter against UC Davis on Feb. 14 he had 10 points and 6 assists and fueled a 10-0 run which put Fullerton ahead by 12 midway through the second half. Against Pacific on Feb. 16 he had 8 points and 9 assists to tie his career high and fueled a critical 12-0 first-half run. At UCI on Saturday he scored six unanswered points after the Anteaters had scored the first 4 points of the second half to draw within a point. His 6-for-7 effort at the line at Cal Poly was a Titan career best. He went 10-for-15 vs. CSUN on Feb. 28.

RUSSELL REINSTATED: Point guard Junior Russell was reinstated on Mar. 3 from a Feb. 6 suspension for a violation of team rules and made the trip to Bakersfield. He has been a Jekyl-Hyde scorer this season. He has scored 9 or more points 6 times and had 3 or less on 10 occasions. Three times he scored 16 points -- at Central Michigan, vs. Cal Poly and vs. UC Riverside on Jan. 23 when he scored 13 of them in the final five minutes. He had a season-high 5 steals vs. UCSB. He has the best 3-point field goal percentage on the team at .531 (17 of 32). In conference games he was 11-for-18 (.611).

MARCIO = OFFENSE: Like Marcus Crenshaw, Marcio Lassiter has provided an offensive spark off the bench. The transfer from San Francisco City College scored 9 points in 11 minutes at Montana, 8 points in 19 minutes vs. Montana and 11 points in 10 minutes vs. Furman. He got a season-high 17 points in a season-high 25 minutes vs. UCR in the absence of Josh Akognon, making 5-of-9 shots, 3-of-6 from the arc.

CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT HISTORY: The Titans have won it only in 1978 and lost in the finals in 1982 to Fresno State and in 1985 to UNLV. They are 3-8 in the semifinals. Their all-time record is 17-28, 8-11 at the Anaheim Convention Center. They have won at least one game in each of the past three tournaments after winning only one game (in 1998) from 1991 through 2004.

NIT HISTORY: The Titans have received three post-season NIT berths. -- going 0-1 in 1983 and 1987 and 2-1 in 2005.

LET'S GET PHYSICAL: The Titans lost two Big West Conference games at home in similar fashion. Against both UC Santa Barbara and Cal State Northridge they were fouled extensively -- UCSB committed 20 fouls and CSUN committed 24. The result was a lot of free throw opportunities -- 25-of-31 vs. UCSB and 25-of-37 (season high attempts) vs. CSUN -- but also two of the worst 3-point shooting nights of the season for Fullerton -- 5 of 22 (.227) vs. UCSB and 3 of 22 (.136) vs. CSUN. The only other time Fullerton shot less than .200 behind the arc was at Northridge -- 4-of-24 (.167) when they shot 24-of-30 free throws in a winning effort (CSUN made only 7 of 25 treys). The only other game with more than 30 free throw attempts was in another physical game at Central Michigan, making only 6 of 21 (.286) treys in another defeat.

TOUGH FIELD: Cal State Fullerton will represent the Big West Conference in the 2008 Anaheim Classic on Thanksgiving Weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center. The ESPN-televised tourney will feature an even stronger field than the inaugural event of 2007 with Wake Forest, Arkansas, Providence, Arizona State, UTEP, Baylor and UNC-Charlotte signed to join the Titans.

30-POINT VICTORIES: The Titans have won four games by 30 or more points (Southern Utah, Furman, at UC Riverside and Long Beach State) this season and 10 (one on the road) in Coach Bob Burton's four-plus year tenure. The win over Long Beach State on Saturday night was the most lopsided CSF victory in the 95-game history of the series. By comparison, predecessors Donny Daniels had one 30-or-more-point win in three seasons, Bob Hawking had four (one on the road) in six seasons, Brad Holland had none in two seasons, John Sneed had one in four seasons, George McQuarn had 10 (one on the road) in eight seasons and Bobby Dye had seven (two on the road) in six seasons. The list of road Div. I era 30-point wins: 101-69 at Cal State Bakersfield on 1/3/76; 87-56 at Cal State Northridge on 11/27/76; 90-60 at Hawaii on 11/27/83; 89-57 at UC Irvine on 1/25/97; and 77-47 at UC Riverside on 1/7/08.

FALL SIGNEES: The Titans signed two incoming players during the November signing period -- Aaron Thompson, a 6-4, 205-pound junior wing from Cerritos College and previously of Washington High School in L.A.; and Jacques Streeter, a 6-foot, 175-pound point guard at Finley Prep School in Las Vegas and previously at Fremont High School in L.A. The Titans lose six seniors off the current roster. There are two redshirts in the program in 7-foot-2 junior-to-be Adam Thomas and 6-foot-6 junior-to-be forward Gerard Anderson.