FULLERTON, Calif. – Cal State Fullerton men's basketball begins Big West Conference play on Wednesday by hosting UC Riverside at Titan Gym at 7 p.m. PT. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3. CSF resumes league play on Saturday at Cal Poly with tip-off set for 7 p.m. PT as well.
FROM THE TIP
• The Titans begin Big West Conference action on Wednesday after going 7-5 in non-conference play and a 5-1 record at Titan Gym. CSF went 10-6 in league play last year and earned a third-place finish overall. The team was picked to finish third in this year's preseason Big West media poll. Wednesday's game marks the first home for CSF since its December 9 win over Utah Valley.
• Junior guard Kyle Allman, Jr. is tops on the team and fourth in the Big West Conference in scoring at 16.6 ppg on 45.9 percent shooting from the field. He's second on the team in assists at 2.5 per game (30 total) and is first on the team in steals with 15 (1.25 per game). Allman has scored 20+ points four times this season and 30+ points on two occasions. The Brooklyn native has scored in double figures in seven of the last eight games.
• Junior guard Khalil Ahmad, the Big West Player of the Week on Dec. 11, is second on the squad and fifth in the Big West in scoring at 16.1 points per game. He has been on a tear lately, scoring 24 points, 34 points, 21 points, 25 points and 18 in each of the last five games. He is the team's most prolific three-point shooter at 25-71 (35.2%) from beyond the arc. Ahmad is shooting 88.0% percent from the free-throw line this year, the No. 1 mark in the BWC and No. 48 in the nation. He has made 24 straight free throws after going 10-10 and 14-14 from the stripe in his last two games.
• Sophomore forward Jackson Rowe is third in the conference in field goal percentage at 60.8 (48-79). Rowe is one of three Titans to average double figures in scoring at 12.3 per game. He leads the team in rebounding at 6.1 per game and is also shooting a remarkable 63.6 percent (14-22) from beyond the arc, the top mark in the Big West.
• CSF ranks very well as a defense in opponent field goal percentage (41.4%, No. 3 in BWC) and opponent three-point field goal percentage (30.8%, No. 45 in the country, No. 2 in BWC).
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 3 VS UC RIVERSIDE || 7 PM PT
Series Record: 29-21
Home Record: 16-10
Away Record: 11-11
Neutral Record: 2-0
Current Streak: Won one
First Meeting: 1/12/61 at UC Riverside, W, 110-60
Last Meeting: 2/16/17 at UC Riverside, W, 56-55
UC RIVERSIDE NOTES
• The Highlanders are 5-9 on the year and just let go of their head coach Dennis Cutts and associate head coach Justin Bell has been named interim head coach. UCR is riding a two-game losing streak.
• UCR has the top field-goal percentage defense in the league and No. 39 in the nation at 39.5 percent.
• Dikymbe Martin is tops on the team is scoring at 13.3 ppg and that is the 10th-best mark in the league.
• Chance Murray and Martin are second and third in the conference in steals per game at 1.8 and 1.7, respectively.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 6 AT CAL POLY || 7 PM PT
Series Record: 29-37
Home Record: 12-18
Away Record: 15-18
Neutral Record: 2-1
Current Streak: Won three
First Meeting: 1/21/61 vs. Cal Poly, W, 80-78
Last Meeting: 1/28/17 vs. Cal Poly, W, 81-71
CAL POLY NOTES
• The Mustangs are 5-9 this year and boast a 3-2 record at home. They have lost their last five games against Division I opponents but snapped that skid with a win against Notre Dame de Namur on December 30.
• Victor Joseph (13.6 ppg) and Donovan Fields (13.1 ppg) are the team's top two scorers. Fields is first in the league in free-throw percentage at 93.8 (30-32) and Joseph is third at 87.2 percent (34-39).
• CP is first in the league and 81st in the nation in three-point field goal attempts at 344 but they only shoot 35.2 percent from distance.
SET THE TABLE
For CSF, Sophomore guard Austen Awosika is third on the team in rebounding at 4.5 per game and leads the squad in assists at 3.2. He has hauled in at least three rebounds in 11 of 12 games this season. He has assisted on a team-high 23.9% of his teammates field goals while he's on the court and has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.81, also the best mark on the team. Awosika also leads the team in +/- rating at a cumulative total of +56 for the season. Essentially, when Awosika has been on the court this season, CSF outscores its opponent by 56 points.
MOVE THE BALL
Head coach Dedrique Taylor has emphasized ball movement to the team and it is still a work-in-progress as the team is fifth in assists per game in the conference at 13.1. At this point in the season, the Titans average 16.0 assists in their seven wins and only 9.0 in their losses. The Titans dished out a season-high 20 assists on Dec. 22 at Loyola Marymount.
CSF entered The Wooden Legacy ranked 351st in the nation in free-throw percentage at 49%. Since then, the team has shot better than 70% in eight of nine games, including four games greater than 83%. The Titans have shot 74.9% in their seven wins and 68.9 in their five losses on the year. The squad is 6-1 when it makes more free throws than the opponent and 5-3 when it has more attempts.
Taylor has a whiteboard at practice that faces the court and a student manager tracks turnovers and deflections for each individual. It is a point of emphasis for him and the team as he mentions it after every game. The Titans average 15.6 turnovers per game and are still looking to cut that number down.
UPDATING THE RECORD BOOKS
Jackson Rowe and Kyle Allman, Jr. both had their names etched into the Cal State Fullerton record book after The Wooden Legacy over Thanksgiving weekend. Allman poured in a career-high 34 points against Georgia (Nov. 23), one of the best scoring performances in program history. Rowe tied a 37-year old school record for the best field goal percentage in a single game, as he shot 10-10 from the field against Harvard (11/26/17) for a career-high 25 points.
Khalil Ahmad had one of the best scoring performances as well, tying Allman with 34 points of his own against Utah Valley (Dec. 9) with a career-high six three-point field goals.
Ahmad also recorded the third-best performance in program history from the free-throw line in a single game. He shot 100% from the stripe on 14 attempts at Utah Valley on Dec. 30.
PICK YOUR SPOTS
The Titans have tried to pick their spots better in transition and slow the game down in order to get better shots and try to cut down on the turnovers. Taylor is still looking for the team to push the ball when they can and after 12 games, the team averages 72.2 possessions per 40 minutes (KenPom) which is nicely ranked No. 69 in the country.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Khalil Ahmad was named Big West Player of the Week on Dec. 11 for his play over the week of Dec. 4-10. Ahmad earned his first career Big West Men's Basketball Player of the Week award after helping Cal State Fullerton win its fourth and fifth straight games. The 6-4 guard averaged 29.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game as the Titans defeated Portland (76-66) on the road and Utah Valley (91-83) at home. He poured in a career-high 34 points against the Wolverines, aided by a career-best six three-point makes in 10 attempts. He shot 11-for-21 overall against Utah Valley. He scored 24 points at Portland, hitting on 8-for-15 from the field, including 4-for-7 from three-point range. He shot 58.8 percent (10-for-17) from distance for the week.
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