CSUF men’s basketball aims to dethrone Kingsmen in homecoming game

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Cal State Fullerton men’s basketball is 2-1 at home heading into its weekend showdown with the Cal Lutheran University Kingsmen on Saturday at 6 p.m. The matchup doubles as the Titans’ homecoming game, and the team said maintaining a strong record in Titan Gym will be critical as the season continues.

“It’s just like, you don’t want anybody stealing anything out of your house. That’s how we feel. It’s huge for us to get wins at home,” said Titans guard Austen Awosika.

Titans forward Jackson Rowe agreed with his teammate that “it’s very important” to the team to protect Titan Gym, but its goal is to go undefeated the rest of the way.

“It sets the standard for the rest of the season. If we don’t let any other teams beat us on our home court, we’ll have that mentality for any other teams that come through,” Rowe said.

Despite a historic shooting performance against Harvard University, Rowe said he and the Titans aren’t satisfied and want to focus on improving other aspects of their game against the Kingsmen.

“There’s still a lot of stuff I need to work on. I still had turnovers. Our main focus of that game was rebounds, and I only had five rebounds, so there’s still a lot of stuff I have to work on,” Rowe said.

The Kingsmen are 2-1 so far, the third-best record in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Guard Austin Cole leads the way for Cal Lutheran with 27.7 points per game while shooting 60.9 percent from behind the arc, the second-best scoring average, and third-best 3-point percentage in the SCIAC.

Cole’s scoring has allowed the Kingsmen to boast the fifth-best offense in the SCIAC with an average of 82.7 points per game. Cal Lutheran has also been stout on defense, allowing the fifth-fewest points per game (80) in the SCIAC.

However, it’s also a Division III team, meaning that NCAA advanced statistics website KenPom is giving the Titans a 100 percent chance of victory on Saturday.

Awosika said that doesn’t change the Titans’ mindset.

“I feel like we should be confident going into any game against any opponent, but I think that we have a good chance of winning this game if we stick to the game plan,” Awosika said.

The Titans have struggled offensively so far, scoring the fewest points per game (65.5) in the Big West on the lowest field goal percentage (40.3 percent) and second-lowest 3-point percentage (25.7 percent) in the conference, issues they hope to reverse against the Kingsmen.

“We’re trying to work on our bigs more to do more on the offensive and defensive glass, and also score better as a team,” Rowe said.

To do so, Rowe has been hitting the gym so early in the morning that Titans Head Coach Dedrique Taylor has asked him to stop because he’s afraid it will tire him out before practice, but Rowe smiled as he said he thinks that after his performance against Harvard that he’s won that argument.

“I still bring energy every day at practice, so I don’t see any reason why I should stop,” Rowe said. “I’m just trying to be great.”

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