Cal State Fullerton men’s basketball team’s conference struggles continued this past weekend with losses to UC Davis and Hawaii.
The Titans entered Thursday’s contest against the Aggies (19-4 overall, 9-1 Big West) with a 1-7 Big West Conference mark, and they knew that it wasn’t going to be easy getting their second conference win against the Big West leaders.
The only respite the Titans were afforded was the absence of UC Davis’ Corey Hawkins, the leading scorer of the Big West Conference with 21.3 points per game. Hawkins also leads the nation in 3-point shooting percentage with a 52.6 percent mark, but has been sidelined recently with an injury.
As a team, the Aggies picked up the scoring slack left behind by Hawkins. UC Davis had five players score in double figures, with a game-high 18 points by Josh Fox. The Aggies attacked the rim, getting many of the Titan forwards into foul trouble and earning themselves 39 free-throws.
Freshman Jamar Akoh fouled out of the match, while Steve McClellan and Joe Boyd were flirting with an ejection with four fouls apiece. The Aggies converted 28 of their free throws to overcome the gritty Fullerton squad.
The Titans kept it close, with Alex Harris hitting a jumper to cut the deficit to four points with 6:57 to play. But from there, UC Davis went on a 10-1 run to put the game away. The Aggies would hold on for the 75-69 win, sweeping Fullerton for the first time in Big West Conference history.
Despite also having a balanced attack, the Titans struggled to find a consistent scorer in the game. Harris, Lanerryl Johnson and Josh Gentry all tied for the team-lead with 11 points apiece. McClellan, the Big West’s leading rebounder, grabbed a game-high nine boards to go with his eight points.
The road trip continued with a flight to Honolulu to take on the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors in a short-handed affair for both teams. The Titans were without the services of Harris, while Hawaii was missing the scoring production of Aaron Valdes.
With both teams’ leading scorer on the sideline, it was time to see who had the deeper bench.
Johnson tried to fill the shoes of Harris with a 23-point effort, but the balanced Hawaii offense outmatched the Titans. Gentry was the only other Titan scorer in double digits with 10 points, while the Hawaii attack featured four players in double figures, with Negus Webster-Chan’s 18 points leading the Rainbow Warriors.
The Titans went into halftime down by just two points. Any thoughts of upsetting the home team were quelled quickly with a 10-0 Hawaii run early in the second half. Fullerton would not cut the lead back into single digits after that point, as the Titans went cold in the final 20 minutes. Head Coach Dedrique Taylor’s squad shot just 23.3 percent from the field, while Hawaii had their way with the CSUF defense, shooting at a 53.8 percent clip.
Hawaii lost two more players to injury, had another foul out and another ejected after two technical fouls. Despite all the setbacks, Hawaii cruised to an 81-61 blowout with a dominant second half.
The Titans tumble to 1-9 in conference with the losses, and remain in last place. Fullerton still has time to find a way into the Big West Conference Tournament, but the Titans need to find rhythm and consistency and get Harris healthy if they want to avoid an early end to the season.
CSUF has a chance to right the ship against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Thursday at CSUF’s Titan Gym.