While most students were leisurely relaxing during winter break, the Titan men’s basketball team was hard at work.
The Titans have posted a 6-4 record since finals week, improving their conference record to 4-4 and overall record to 11-9. They currently sit in third place in the Big West standings and are 5-3 at home, 4-6 on the road and a perfect 2-0 on neutral courts.
The Titans were at home for two games the week following finals and won both, one each against Hope International University and UC Santa Barbara. Hope International suffered an 87-65 thumping on Dec. 22. CSUF Freshman guard Jared Brandon posted a career-high 20 points and added six rebounds in the win. The Titans then edged UC Santa Barbara 86-79 on Dec. 29. Senior forward Sammy Yeager poured in 30 points and grabbed four rebounds, and senior guard Kwame Vaughn added 27 points and six rebounds to lead the Titans.
The team then set out for the road for their next three games. They dropped the first game of the trip on Jan. 3 against Hawaii on a buzzer beater in a tightly contested 90-88 game. Vaughn led the way with 26 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Two days later the Titans bounced back to put on an offensive clinic against Cal State Northridge putting up 105 points to the Matadors’ 86. The Titans shot a scorching 58.6 percent from the field and senior guard D.J. Seeley had a career high 37 points and added 4 rebounds and three assists in the win.
The Titans closed out their trip on Jan. 9 with a win against CSU Bakersfield, 74-62. Yeager had game highs of 18 points and eight rebounds.
Three days later the team returned home for a three game stretch. The first game against UC Riverside was decided in the closing seconds as Vaughn hit the game winner to give the Titans a 71-69 victory. Seeley paced the team with 18 points, five rebounds, six assists and five steals. At this point the team had played four games over a nine day span, and Head Coach Andy Newman was worried about fatigue and injuries. The team had been regularly playing with only seven players.
“This time of year I think guys bodies start to break down, you start to see nagging injuries that they are able to play through earlier in the year but now it starts to affect the guys’ play,” Newman said. “Our depth has been rattled with injuries so we are asking players to log a lot of minutes during games.”
The Titans looked fatigued as they dropped their next two home games. UC Irvine shot a blistering 56.5 percent from the field and outrebounded the Titans 41-25 in a 92-65 rout on Jan. 17. It was a similar story two days later against Long Beach State. The 49ers had 51 rebounds to the Titans 31 and shot 47.4 percent during the 81-71 loss. Newman was not pleased with the effort that weekend.
“We were going great until the Irvine and Long Beach week. We stumbled a little bit and did a poor job defending and rebounding,” Newman said. “We didn’t have a great effort that week and so that was disappointing.”
After a few lackluster games, the team was back on the road for their next two matches. They bounced back after what Newman said was the best week of practice and rallied from eight points down in the second half to beat UC Davis with the help of 32 points from Seeley.
The Titans had a crucial game Saturday as they traveled to Stockton to take on the second place Pacific Tigers. The Titans trailed by as much as 11 in the second half but made a charging comeback that fell just short. The Tigers won 71-67 despite a game high 23 points and seven rebounds from Seeley and 19 points and six rebounds from sophomore guard Alex Harris.
As for the game plan for the next match, Newman said, “We are just going to play Titan basketball. We are going to defend and we are going to rebound.”