Los Angeles — CSUF men’s basketball lost its season opener 84-42 to USC, leaving Titans Head Coach Dedrique Taylor questioning an opening slate for the team that included two much more highly touted teams: The No. 10 Trojans and No. 22 Saint Mary’s.
“Not the smartest scheduling, obviously, but again, at some point you’ve got to play teams, and you’ve got to find out where you are,” Taylor said. “This is hopefully a wake-up call for our ball club, and not to say that we had a chance to realistically come in here and beat USC, but I thought there were some things that I expected our ball club to come out and do tonight and we were lackluster in everything we did.”
NCAA basketball advanced statistics site Kenpom didn’t give the Titans a chance to realistically sneak out of the Trojans’ gym with a victory, putting their chances at 1 percent prior to the game. Kenpom’s models don’t favor Fullerton’s odds against Saint Mary’s much more, despite doubling its chances to 2 percent.
Taylor made it sound like the Titans would have even lower odds if they don’t clean up their play on both ends of the floor, lamenting the team’s 21 turnovers, defense, rebounding and saying the roster would have to improve at “everything” if they wanted a chance to win any games moving forward.
“I don’t feel like we did anything that we’ve practiced for the last month and a half. I feel like we’ve basically wasted a month and a half of practice if that’s what we’re going to do out there on the floor,” Taylor said.
Jackson Rowe — who served as the only potential bright spot for the Titans, scoring 12 points to lead the team while showing off his improved range by canning two of his three 3-point attempts — offered a few solutions for the team following the loss.
“Definitely shooting, taking the open shot, turning the ball over less and sharing the ball and knocking down shots,” Rowe said.
Khalil Ahmad also had a few ideas. After he got going in the second half following the Titans’ slow start, he scored all of his 9 points in the final 20 minutes of the game. Ahmad said he wasn’t the only one who could’ve done well to begin the game more productively.
“We’ve got to start off better. We started off not scoring that much, we turned the ball over too much, we didn’t do the little things. So at the end of the day, we’ve just got to learn from it,” Ahmad said.
The Titans know all of those might sound like basic fixes, but when a team gets doubled up in score in its first game of the season, getting back to basics is really the only thing it can do.
“I really think we have got to find ourselves,” Taylor said. “That goes from the first man all the way down the end of the bench. We’ve got to figure out who we are and what we’re going to fight for.”
Rowe boiled down what he felt the Titans needed to do even more simply.
“Play with more heart. That’s all it is,” Rowe said.