Josh Pitts wasn’t willing to call the Titans’ home opener against the Bethesda University Flames a must-win game, but the freshman forward did call it “very important” for the team to get a win in its own gym after starting the season 0-2.
“Not only are we doing it for ourselves, we’re doing it for the fans,” Pitts said. “It’s a big deal.”
NCAA advanced statistics website Kenpom makes it look like the Titans will get the win Pitts and the team are searching for, with projections guaranteeing CSUF will beat Bethesda when the two teams face off Saturday in Titan Gym.
For context, Kenpom gave the Titans just a one and two percent chance to win its contests against USC and Saint Mary’s, respectively, and so even for those that don’t believe in analytical guarantees, it would appear the Titans at the very least have a much better chance to extinguish the Flames than they did against the Trojans or Gaels.
Titans Head Coach Dedrique Taylor said that despite the Titans being favored for the first time this season, he didn’t want his team’s mindset to change Saturday.
“It shouldn’t,” Taylor said. “I think we’ve learned that when we compete we’re a different ball club, but even when we compete that doesn’t automatically mean we’re gonna win.”
Bethesda started its season as part of the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) 3-5 but is in the midst of its own losing streak, dropping its last four games.
Regardless of those struggles, Taylor said there are a few things the Titans will have to focus on containing.
“They run some basic sets,” Taylor said. “They do a lot of isolation and they’re going to get some shots up, so we’ve got to be really disciplined.”
Pitts said the coaching staff has been on the Titans to make sure they’re communicating so the Flames won’t burn them for easy baskets. Pitts also said the team isn’t dissuaded by its rough start because everyone knows they’re still learning to play together.
“Our chemistry is not there, but it’s coming along,” Pitts said. “Even through the last tough losses, we’re still getting at it and everything and making sure everybody has their head held high and is standing together as a unit.”
Taylor was also impressed by the Titans’ “mindset” in the face of the first adversity they’ve faced as a team.
“I think their spirits are in the right place,” Taylor said. “Ironically coming off of Saint Mary’s, as crazy as this sounds, I think we’ve got a little bit more confidence … I think they realize when we do certain things the right way, the way we want to do them, we give ourselves a great opportunity to be successful.”
Taylor listed containing ball penetration, making teams take contested twos instead of open threes and getting out in transition after stops as the things that can make the Titans successful in a game that is as close to a must-win as the team has faced all season.
“This group is learning. They’ve got a lot of things to get better at and a lot of improvements to make,” Taylor said. “We’re just looking for an opportunity to do that tomorrow.”