February 26, 2008

First Place in Big West at Stake Thursday Night

Feb. 25, 2008

Fullerton, Calif. - UPCOMING: Thurs., Feb. 28 -- Cal State Northridge, Titan Gym (4,000), 7:05 p.m. - KVMD-TV Sat., Mar. 1 -- Long Beach State, Titan Gym (4,000), 6:05 p.m. Tues., Mar. 4 -- at Cal State Bakersfield, Rabobank Arena (10,000), 7 p.m.

IN A NUTSHELL: The Titans (18-7, 10-3) host Cal State Northridge in a battle for first place in the Big West Conference and then traditional rival Long Beach State in the final home game for six Titan seniors. This is the latest in a season the Titans have played for first place since 1976. Fullerton has won four in a row and eight out of nine.

BATTLES FOR FIRST: Only in the 1975-76 season did the Titans play for first place later than the next-to-last week of the conference season. That year everything was decided on the final Saturday (Feb. 21). Going in, Long Beach was 6-3, Fullerton and San Diego State were 5-4 and San Jose State was 4-5. The Titans beat SDSU, 71-61, and San Jose beat Long Beach, 71-62, to leave the 49ers and Titans tied for the championship at 6-4. Last season, on Feb. 14, the third to last week of the season, first-place Long Beach came into Titan Gym with an 8-2 record and faced an 8-3 Fullerton team. The 49ers won, 94-84, and went on to capture the Big West title by 3 games.

ACCOMPLISHED SO FAR: This is only the sixth time at the Div. I level that Fullerton has won as many as 18 games in a season (also twice at Div. II). The Titans have matched the 1982-83 squad as the only other one to go 10-3 in conference play (the 1982-83 team went to 11-3 and 12-3 before finishing 12-4). Fullerton has posted four consecutive winning seasons for the first time since George McQuarn's teams did it in 1981-82 thru 1984-85.

WITHIN REACH: Fullerton never has won a conference basketball championship outright, boasting only a co-title in 1976. Only twice has a Fullerton Div. I team finished with single-digit losses -- 23-9 in 1977-78 and 21-8 in 1982-83. Only the 1982-83 team (21-6) won 20 games in the regular season.

AUDIO: All Titan games can be heard live on the internet on computers with sound cards. Listeners may access the CSF Athletics home page at www.fullertontitans.com and follow the links. Todd Reeves will call the CSUN and Long Beach State games.

VIDEO: All Titan home games and road Big West Conference games are available via videostreaming on a subscription basis. Details are available on the Big West website at www.bigwest.org. The game will be televised on KVMD with Geoff Witcher and Don Ford announcing.

PROBABLE STARTERS:
No. Name Ht. Yr. ppg r/apg Quick Notes F 2 Scott Cutley* 6-5 Sr. 14.2 7.5r Among Big West Top 10 in scoring, rebounds, assists and FG percentage
F 34 Marcus Morgan* 6-5 Jr. 6.2 6.0r Matched career high with 13 points vs. UoP; had 11 rebounds at Saint Mary's
G 1 Josh Akognon 6-1 Jr. 20.2 3.5r One 3-point field goal shy of CSF single-season record of 89
G 22 Ray Reed* 5-11 Sr. 5.2 2.1a Averaging 9.4 pts., 6.2 assists in Russell's absence; made 26 of last 44 FGAs
F 5 Frank Robinson** 6-4 Sr. 16.4 7.0r Only 18th Titan to score 1,000 points; now 15th at 1,047
OFF THE BENCH:
C 21 Kenneth Alexander* 6-6 Sr. 3.3 2.3r Career-high 17 pts. off the bench at Southern Utah; solid 15 minutes at CSUN
C 42 Andrew Green* 6-6 Sr. 3.1 2.6r Grabbed 7 rebounds in 20 minutes at UC Riverside
G 11 Marcio Lassiter 6-2 Jr. 3.3 0.5a Career-high 17 points in career-high 25 minutes vs. UCR
C 13 Eddie Lima 6-9 Jr. 1.7 1.3r Has played only 10 minutes over last 20 games
SIDELINED: G 54 Marcus Crenshaw* 5-10 Jr. 9.9 2.2a Suffered broken nose at Cal Poly; made 3 of 6 treys with mask against Davis
G 15 Junior Russell 5-6 Jr. 6.1 2.6a Suspended indefinitely on Feb. 6 for violation of team rules
*letters earned

SERIES HISTORIES: The Titans lead the series with Cal State Northridge, 31-23, thanks to an 8-game winning streak that includes five wins by 5 points or less. The Titans are 7-2 at the Div. I level in Titan Gym against the Matadors, who last won in Fullerton on Jan. 3, 2004, 61-55. The Titans trail the series with Long Beach State, 57-37. Fullerton snapped a 6-game losing streak to the 49ers with a 91-75 win on Jan. 31. ABOUT THE MATADORS: The Matadors (18-7, 10-2) have occupied first place since opening the Big West Conference schedule with victories at Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara. They have won three Big West games in a row since losing to Fullerton and in overtime at Pacific. Deon Tresvant comes off the bench to lead them in scoring at 13.2 ppg. Four others are averaging in double figures led by Jonathan Heard at 11.5. Another super sub, Tremaine Townsend, averages 9.5 rebounds to lead the Big West.

ABOUT THE 49ers: Long Beach State (6-20, 3-9 going into a Thursday game at UC Irvine) features the leading scorer in the Big West in Donovan Morris, averaging 20.8 ppg. No other 49er player averages more than 7.4 points. Morris also is the leading rebounder at 5.4 rpg.

THE COACH: Bob Burton is 86-58 in his fifth year at Cal State Fullerton and career. At .597, Burton has moved ahead of Bobby Dye (109-78, .583) as the winningest coach in Titan history. He is the only Fullerton coach with a winning conference record, currently at 43-34 (.558). Dye was 37-37. Burton is 9-2 vs. CSUN and Coach Bobby Braswell, 3-1 in Titan Gym, and 4-6 vs. Long Beach State (2-2 in Titan Gym), 1-0 vs. Dan Monson (0-0 in Titan Gym).

FRIENDLY CONFINES: Under Bob Burton, the Titans are 47-17 (.734) in Titan Gym including 10-2 this season.

NATIONAL STATISTICS: Through games of Feb. 24, Josh Akognon was No. 2 in the nation in free-throw percentage at .938 (No. 1 was Louis Dale of Cornell at .944 -- 85 of 90). Akognon ranked No. 13 in 3-point field goals made per game (3.67) and the Titans as a team ranked No. 14 at 9.3. Marcus Crenshaw was ranked No. 20 in 3-point FG percentage at .438. The Titans were No. 5 in team scoring at 83.3 ppg.

CUTLEY FOR MVP: Senior forward Scott Cutley is arguably the most indispensable Titan. A back injury which occurred at UCSB on Feb. 7 and was aggravated in practice limited his practice time last week and he had only 8 points and 5 rebounds vs. a tall Portland State team. He was selected Big West Conference Player of the Week for his role a week ago in wins over UC Davis and Pacific. He averaged 22 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals while shooting 70 percent from the floor including 4 of 5 from 3-point range. His 24 points vs. UoP were a season high and his 5 steals were a career high. His season almost ended before it started. He fractured his ankle on the second day of practice (Oct. 13) but returned to the practice floor six weeks later during Thanksgiving weekend, missing 3 games before coming off the bench at Arizona. Last season he missed only one game despite a broken thumb. He begins this week ranked No. 2 in the Big West in rebounding at 7.5 rpg per game, No. 9 in scoring at 14.2 points per game, No. 7 in assists at 2.82 per game, No. 3 in field goal percentage at .510 and No. 4 in minutes played at 32.77 per game. He posted three consecutive double-doubles vs. Central Michigan, Southern Utah and Montana and just missed a triple-double vs. the Thunderbirds. He is 29-for-41 (.707) at the foul line over the last 10 games. Prior to that he was 26-for-53 (.491). He is 40-of-66 (.606) from the floor in the last 6 games.

AKOGNON LIKES THE TEMPO: Josh Akognon is one long shot away from Cal State Fullerton's single-season record for 3-point field goals (89 by Don Leary in 1992-93) with 88 in his 24 games (3.67 per game to lead the Big West). He is also 15 attempts shy of Bobby Brown's CSF mark of 244 in 2004-05. Akognon has made four or more in a game 14 times with a best of seven on three occasions. The Washington State transfer led the Cougars in scoring in 2005-06 and made just under two treys per game while averaging 10.3 points. He is the Big West leader in free-throw percentage (.938 on 75 of 80) and he is the No. 3 scorer at 20.2 ppg. At Saint Mary's he grabbed a career-high 9 rebounds and he had 7 at Northridge on Feb. 2 and at Cal Poly on Feb. 9. He had a season high of 6 steals vs. UC Davis on Feb. 14 and matched his career high with 6 assists vs. Portland State on Feb. 23. He has scored 30 or more points four times.

ROBINSON HITS 1,000: Frank Robinson became the 18th Titan to score 1,000 career points late in the first half vs. UC Davis on Feb. 14 and now has 1,047 to rank 15th. Next ahead is Pape Sow at 1,135. Robinson was selected Big West player of the week on Feb. 4. With 131 3-pointers he is No. 8 on the Titans' career list. Mark Murphy is No. 7 at 133. Since sitting out the Dec. 17 Southern Utah game with an ankle injury, Robinson has played consistently well. He ranks No. 4 in scoring (16.4 ppg) and No. 4 in rebounding (7.0 rpg) in the Big West Conference. He's No. 8 in field goal percentage at .466 and No. 10 in treys made per game at 1.83. He's had four double-doubles -- at Central Michigan with 15 points and 10 rebounds; vs. UCI with 17 points and 10 rebounds; at CSUN with 14 points and 10 boards and 20 points and 11 boards vs. Portland State -- and been one rebound shy of three more.

MORGAN SHINES IN TOUGHEST SPOTS: Marcus Morgan has had his best statistical games against the tougher opponents this season. At Arizona he scored 13 points and grabbed 9 rebounds while playing solid defense. At Saint Mary's he had another strong defensive game and had 7 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. Against Pacific on Feb. 16 he matched his career high with 13 points (5 of 6 shooting) and had four offensvie rebounds. His biggest play of the year was blocking the potential game-winning layup by Montana's Andrew Strait with one second left in regulation on Dec. 20. He has made 16 of 22 (.727) free throws since going 0-for-5 vs. UC Irvine on Jan. 4. He is 13-for-17 (.765) from the floor the last three games and 19-for-27 (.703) over the past six games. He has had double-digit rebound totals 3 times.

CRENSHAW's ROLE CHANGING DAILY: Junior guard Marcus Crenshaw had surgery last week to repair his broken nose but he is expected back this week. The Big West Conference's Sixth Man of the Year in 2006-07 continued to provide an offensive spark off the bench before being thrust into the starting lineup on Feb. 7 due to the suspension of Junior Russell. At UCSB on Feb. 7 he matched his career high with 23 points -- 21 in the second half -- and had 9 early in the second half at Cal Poly when he was hit in the nose and suffered a concussion which sidelined him for the balance of the game. He came off the bench again vs. UC Davis and scored 9 points and had 6 vs. Pacific, all while wearing a protective mask. He ranks as the Titans' No. 4 scorer at 9.9 points per game. He earlier started at Montana and Central Michigan after 31 consecutive appearances off the bench. He also started his first three games as a Titan in November of 2006 when the roster was short three suspended players. With 143 3-point baskets as a Titan, he has moved into the No. 5 spot on the Titans' career list. At No. 4 is Mark Hill (1988-90) with 145. In Big West games, Crenshaw is 14-for-27 (.519) at home shooting treys and 18-for-44 (.409) on the road.

RUSSELL SUSPENDED: Point guard Junior Russell was suspended indefinitely on Feb. 6 for a violation of team rules. He has been a Jekyl-Hyde scorer this season. He has scored 9 or more points 6 times and had 3 or less on 10 occasions. Three times he scored 16 points -- at Central Michigan, vs. Cal Poly and vs. UC Riverside on Jan. 23 when he scored 13 of them in the final five minutes. He had a season-high 5 steals vs. UCSB. He has the best 3-point field goal percentage on the team at .531 (17 of 32). In conference games he is 11-for-18 (.611).

REED STEPS UP: Senior guard Ray Reed has stepped up his play since getting his first start on Jan. 23 in Josh Akognon's absence. He is averaging 8.5 points over the last eight games while shooting .591 (26-for-44) from the floor. He had a season-best 14 points plus 5 assists against Portland State. As a starter against UC Davis on Feb. 14 he had 10 points and 6 assists and fueled a 10-0 run which put Fullerton ahead by 12 midway through the second half. Against Pacific on Feb. 16 he had 8 points and 9 assists to tie his career high and fueled a critical 12-0 first-half run. His 6-for-7 effort at the line at Cal Poly was a Titan career best.

MARCIO = OFFENSE: Like Marcus Crenshaw, Marcio Lassiter has provided an offensive spark off the bench. The transfer from San Francisco City College scored 9 points in 11 minutes at Montana, 8 points in 19 minutes vs. Montana and 11 points in 10 minutes vs. Furman. He got a season-high 17 points in a season-high 25 minutes vs. UCR in the absence of Josh Akognon, making 5-of-9 shots, 3-of-6 from the arc.

TITANS SHARE LEAD IN BIG WEST ROAD WINS: CSF has 5 -- at Davis, UCR, Long Beach, CSUN and Cal Poly; CSUN has 5 -- at UCSB, Cal Poly, UCR, Davis and Long Beach; UCSB has 5 -- at CSF, Cal Poly, UCR, Davis and UoP; UoP has 3 -- at Long Beach, UCSB and Davis; UCI has 2 -- at Long Beach and UCSB; Cal Poly has 2 - at Davis and UoP.; and Long Beach has 1 -- at Davis. The visiting teams are 23-33 this season.

TAPER OR TAPEE? Cal State Fullerton's men's basketball athletic trainer Mike Martinez was sidelined for the past two games after severely spraining his right ankle falling on stairs at home. Chris Mumaw filled in for him vs. Pacific and Julie Max took over vs. Portland State.

TOUGH FIELD: Cal State Fullerton will represent the Big West Conference in the 2008 Anaheim Classic on Thanksgiving Weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center. The ESPN-televised tourney will feature an even stronger field than the inaugural event of 2007 with Wake Forest, Arkansas, Providence, Arizona State, UTEP, Baylor and UNC-Charlotte signed to join the Titans.

30-POINT VICTORIES: The Titans have won three games by 30 or more points (Southern Utah, Furman and at UC Riverside) this season and nine (one on the road) in Coach Bob Burton's four-plus year tenure. By comparison, predecessors Donny Daniels had one 30-or-more-point win in three seasons, Bob Hawking had four (one on the road) in six seasons, Brad Holland had none in two seasons, John Sneed had one in four seasons, George McQuarn had 10 (one on the road) in eight seasons and Bobby Dye had seven (two on the road) in six seasons. The list of road Div. I era 30-point wins: 101-69 at Cal State Bakersfield on 1/3/76; 87-56 at Cal State Northridge on 11/27/76; 90-60 at Hawaii on 11/27/83; 89-57 at UC Irvine on 1/25/97; and 77-47 at UC Riverside on 1/7/08.

FALL SIGNEES: The Titans signed two incoming players during the November signing period -- Aaron Thompson, a 6-4, 205-pound junior wing from Cerritos College and previously of Washington High School in L.A.; and Jacques Streeter, a 6-foot, 175-pound point guard at Finley Prep School in Las Vegas and previously at Fremont High School in L.A.