After blowing a double-digit lead late in the second half last week, Cal State Fullerton’s men’s basketball team needed to give a complete effort on Thursday to make up for it.
They did just that.
The Titans snapped a three-game losing streak in a 66-53 win over the Idaho State Bengals, dropping the Bengals to 1-8.
Despite a slow start offensively from both teams and a seven-point deficit midway through the 1st half, it was the Titans who were up seven at the end of the 1st half, highlighted by a 17-3 run over a span of eight minutes. A fancy spin-move layup going baseline by senior guard D.J. Seeley, a dunk by senior forward Sammy Yeager in transition and a smooth step-back jumper by senior guard Kwame Vaughn during the final two-minutes of the half gave the Titans momentum going into intermission.
Both teams needed the break and a fresh half of basketball after very cold shooting. The Bengals shot just under 35 percent from the field, and 20 percent from beyond the arc. The Titans, a small team built on their speed and shooting prowess, were even worse, shooting just 33 percent from the field and 14 percent from deep. Interim Head Coach Andy Newman felt his team was playing “timid,” “walking the ball up” and playing “boring basketball” despite holding the lead after one half.
The second half began with a turnover by D.J. Seeley, followed by a monster dunk in traffic by Idaho State center Jakub Kuskieruk, it looked like the Titans were on the verge of another second half collapse.
From then on, the Titans seized complete control of the game, going on a 17-0 run after the Bengals scored the first basket of the half. The Titans led by as many as twenty-three points in the game. The Titans shot nearly 62 percent from the field and connected on half of their three-point tries in the second-half. They also outscored the Bengals 8-0 in fast-break points.
Sophomore guard Alex Harris had arguably the biggest impact on the game. He finished with 11 points, including three three three-pointers (all in the second half), 2 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 enormous block, in which he chased down an Idaho State player on the break and spiked his shot directly to the hardwood, causing a frenzy in Titan Gym.
“Basically, I’m just an energy player,” Harris said humbly when asked about his role on the team. “That’s what my job is … defense … I know my offense will come. I trust my teammates. They get me open shots, so I take them … luckily they went in tonight,” he said.
Sammy Yeager chipped in 14 big points, highlighted by two dunks and a three-pointer that put the Titans up by 20 in the midst of their game-changing run.
“We ran the break and played some good defense,” Yeager said. “We got some rebounds, (but) we can do better on the boards.”
Even though the Titans were narrowly out-rebounded, the effort on the boards was good enough to push the Titans to a record of 4-5. Size in the interior is an attribute that the Titans will be on the wrong side of more often than not this season.
Alex Harris summed it up saying, “We’re a short team. So, when you’re short you’ve got to run … When there’s five guards on the floor, we (can) run and get open looks. That’s what we did tonight.”