Cal State Fullerton men’s basketball believes it can win the Big West Tournament

In Sports
(Gabe Gandara / Daily Titan)

When Cal State Fullerton men’s basketball lost to UC Riverside a week ago, Head Coach Dedrique Taylor wanted the team back on the practice courts immediately once the buses returned to Fullerton.

The only problem was Taylor’s two daughters who were waiting for him on the bus, an effort to guarantee he’d go home that night.

Instead, Taylor was forced to settle for a fiery film session the next day where he told the Titans he wasn’t just mad because they had lost to Riverside, one of the Big West’s worst teams this season, he was most upset that his players bought into the wrong things.

He told his team they were focused too much on what NBA players were wearing and not enough on the work it took to even get to the fringes of the league. He also told them they didn’t see the work it took for players like former CSUF guard Bobby Brown to even get close to that level before getting cut by the Houston Rockets.

Taylor even read guards Khalil Ahmad and Kyle Allman, the Titans two leading scorers, their free-throw percentages while reminding the team that everyone, even their best players, would need to be better if the team was going to fulfill its goal of winning the Big West championship.

Guard Dwight Ramos said the film session was “definitely” more fiery than normal, a way for their coach to remind them that they “f—ed up” by losing on the road to the Highlanders.

“Maybe we were getting a little complacent,” Ramos said. “Coach Taylor woke us up.”

The Titans’ wake-up call worked, well, for two games at least.

CSUF defended homecourt against rival Long Beach State before going on the road to knock off Cal State Northridge, but the Titans couldn’t keep rolling and fell to Hawaii 68-60 in their final game of Big West play, falling to fourth place in the Big West.

“Cal State Fullerton, back to our old selves, we continue to just take out a gun and blow our own foot off. You can’t play as selfish as we’ve played tonight … and expect to have a chance to win,” Taylor said.

The Titans (10-6 in conference play) have scored the third-most points per game (73.9) of any team in the Big West, but they rank sixth in 3-point percentage (34.4 percent), a weakness that came back to bite them in a loss to the Rainbow Warriors in which they shot 2-17 from distance.

But the Titans’ lack of shooting concerns Taylor less than the types of “piss-poor” shots he said they’re taking, an issue he highlighted as a consistent problem this season and something he said he doesn’t know how to fix.

“If I had that answer to that, I’d be a millionaire, because I’m sure every coach across the country is probably experiencing the same type of scenario at some level,” Taylor said.

Despite his obvious frustration with his team’s play against Hawaii, Taylor does think the Titans can win big games. In fact, he thinks they can win the whole Big West tournament — which starts Thursday, March 8 when the Titans take on Long Beach — if they have a solid week of practice.

“I believe when my team is at their best we’ve proven that we can play with anyone,” Taylor said. “It’s a matter of how much they believe in winning and how much they’re willing to sacrifice for the end product and what goes into the intangibles of what’s required to win.”

Taylor was happy to share what he feels those intangibles are.

“Being selfless,” Taylor said. “I think I might go get a tattoo of that on my forehead.”

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