Slow Start Dooms Titans in Loss to Tigers, 64-55

FULLERTON, Calif. -- Travis Fulton scored a game-high 19 points to go with seven rebounds and the Pacific defense held host Cal State Fullerton to just 31 percent shooting from the field on the night as the Tigers handed the Titans a 64-55 defeat on Thursday night at Titan Gym.

The loss evened Fullerton's record at 14-14 overall, but dropped the Titans to 6-9 in Big West Conference, still keeping them two games ahead of eighth-place UC Santa Barbara, which fell, 70-66, at Hawaii late Thursday. Pacific improved to 16-12 overall with the win and 10-5 in league play.

"I thought our offense sputtered," Interim Head Coach Andy Newman said. "I thought we had good shots, we just missed them in the first half. Pacific is a very good defensive team, they had a great game plan coming in, we just missed a lot of shots.

"I though they were good shots, uncontested perimeter jumpshots, we got to the rim, we just missed a lot of easy shots which, I think, set the tone. It's hard to get back and really defend with passion when you're not scoring, there's something about that."

Senior Kwame Vaughn finished with a team-high 16 points, seven rebounds, and five assists before fouling out with less than a minute to play. He now stands 18 points shy of 1,000 for his career and his five assists moved him into 13th place with 227 helpers for his career. Sophomore Alex Harris also finished in double figures, adding 12 points, four rebounds, and two steals, as he reached double digits in points for the fourth-consecutive game.

The Titans played most of the second half without senior D.J. Seeley, who suffered an injury at the 15:33 mark and did not return, finishing with seven points and three rebounds in 23 minutes.

Fullerton's only lead was at 1-0 when Seeley hit 1-of-2 from the line just 1:10 into the contest, but a 10-0 run over the next seven minutes by the Tigers proved decisive as the Titans went without a field goal until a three-pointer by Vaughn at the 10:38 mark.

"I was surprised with how we came out," Newman said. "We're a good team. We're the fourth-highest scoring team in the nation so, anytime you have one point at the 11-minute mark, that's a little shocking. It was, obviously, disappointing, but tip your hat to Pacific, they did a great job and played well."

The trey was part of a larger 12-4 Fullerton burst that brought the Titans to within a pair at 15-13 with 6:14 to play in the first, but the Tigers finished the half strong, all but putting the game away with a 17-3 run to close out the half, carrying a 32-16 lead into the locker room at the break.

The Tigers' lead grew to as many as 20 points in the second half after back-to-back baskets by Khalil Kelley to start the period, but the Titans fought back to make a game of it, scoring the next 13 points to get within seven at 36-29 with 15:18 to play. With Seeley out, Pacific took advantage, widening its lead back to 15 points with 8:29 to play, but Fullerton would not go away, scoring 10 of the next 11 points to get back within six at 54-48 and even closer at 56-51 with just over three minutes to play, but that would be as close as the Titans would come. Colin Beatty responded with a jumper and the Tigers finished 6-of-6 from the line in the final minute to ice the victory.

After hitting just 4-of-25 (.160) from the field and scoring under 20 points in a half for the first time this season, Fullerton rebounded to shoot 44 percent in the second half and grab 13 offensive rebounds on the night. Pacific shot just under 49 percent from the floor for the night, including hitting 55 percent in the opening 20 minutes.

Cal State Fullerton closes out its home schedule on Saturday evening (March 2) at 6:05 p.m. as the Titans salute their senior class prior to tip against UC Davis at Titan Gym.