After losing to Long Beach State on the road, Cal State Fullerton men’s basketball sits tied for second place in the Big West conference with a 4-2 record.
Two of the Titans’ victories have come at the hands of UC Irvine and UC Davis, the two teams selected to finish ahead of CSUF in the 2017-18 Big West Media Preseason Poll. They also defeated UC Riverside and Cal Poly in down-to-the-wire finishes.
The root of the Titans’ success has been the collective play of Jackson Rowe, Khalil Ahmad and Kyle Allman. Through the first six games, the trio has scored 292 of CSUF’s 458 points, accounting for nearly two-thirds of their total scoring.
“These guys are putting in work after hours and before hours, and it’s amazing to see what their work does and how it plays itself out on the floor,” said Titans Head Coach Dedrique Taylor.
In the midst of this run, Allman secured his second Big West conference Player of the Week award.
The Titans’ stars have also gotten support from their deep and reliable bench in conference play, with Austen Awosika and Davon Clare giving all-around help in their large sum of minutes as reserves. Dominik Heinzl has also scored in every game thus far, with nine points against Davis as his greatest contribution.
While that play fueled the team’s 4-0 start, the Titans have faced obvious struggles during their two game losing streak.
The team has averaged 68.5 points on offense during the rut, which is significantly lower than the 80.25 mark they notched in the first four games.
They also gave up 82 points to opponents during the defeats, eight points higher than the 74 they’ve held Big West opponents to during wins.
Taylor believes the team lost its rhythm and identity after their impressive start.
“They’re not executing on the level that we’ve executed when we got off to that 4-0 start,” Taylor said. “We were locked in, guys had each other’s back. Synergistically, we were connected and right now we’re not.”
Despite the two losses, things haven’t been all bad for the Titans. Their 4-0 start in the Big West marks the franchise’s best record to begin conference play since the 1983-84 season, and the Titans’ victory at UC Irvine ended the program’s six year drought in the Bren Events Center.
Cal State Fullerton ranks third overall in the Big West conference leaderboards in points per game, field goal percentage and free throw percentage at 74.3, 46.3 and 71.7, respectively.
Its free throw percentage, which once sat below 50 percent on the season, has been one of the team’s strongest assets as the season has progressed. CSUF has converted 71.1 percent of its free throws in conference play.
In some cases, like against Riverside, Cal Poly and Irvine, late free throws helped turn the game in the Titans’ favor.
For individual players, Allman is third in both points per game overall and in conference at 17.3 and 18.8. He also holds the second-highest three point percentage in conference play at 52.6 percent.
Rowe leads the Big West in overall field goal percentage and three-point percentage at 61.5 and 56.7 percent. Ahmad is fourth in overall free throw percentage at 82.9 percent.
With 10 games to go before the Big West tournament, the Titans are in a great position to make the type of run for the NCAA tournament they fell just short of last year. They play at home on Thursday, Jan. 25 against UC Santa Barbara before traveling to Hawaii for a game on Saturday, Jan. 27.