Cal State Fullerton Prevails in Big West Basketball Clash

February 1, 2009

Fullerton, Calif. – The Cal State Fullerton Titans defeated the UC Riverside Highlanders 58-52, behind Jacques Streeter’s 17 points and 4 assists. The home victory improved the Titans to 11-10 overall, and 5-4 in Big West Conference play.

The Highlanders fell to 11-9 overall, and 3-5 in conference play. Riverside was led by Kyle Austin’s game-high18 points and 10 boards.

Both teams entered the game with aspirations of making up ground on league-leading Long Beach State. Since the start of the season, parity has hit the Big West, due in part to the midseason personnel losses that have affected conference favorite Cal State Northridge.

Fullerton has been led all year by three-point gunner Josh Akognon, the eighth-leading scorer in the nation at 23.4 PPG. In addition to Akognon, the Titans also field a solid collection of outside-shooting guards and swingmen.

So, it was somewhat surprising when Riverside opened the first half in a zone defense. Presumably, a zone would play into the Titans’ strength by giving their shooters open looks at the basket.

Instead, the Highlanders’ strategy worked to near perfection.

Akognon went ice-cold from the field, making 1 of 9 first half treys, and only 1 of 12 shots overall.

Although the Titans did get open perimeter looks, a combination of effective Riverside closeouts and errant Fullerton marksmanship, resulted in a dismal 2 for 18 Titan shooting performance from three point land. Overall, the Titans shot a horrific 28% in the first half.

Fortunately for Fullerton, those bricks produced long caroms, which the Titans converted into 14 offensive rebounds and some second-chance opportunities.

Fullerton Coach Bob Burton spoke about the Riverside zone defense, stating, “I was completely surprised that they zoned. They matched up out of it really good.”

He blamed himself for the Titan’s poor first half shooting, admitting that the zone strategy caught him off guard, and that the Titans were too easy to guard because “we weren’t moving.”

Meanwhile, the Highlanders’ supplemented their zone with some outstanding transition defense, as they slowed the pace into more of a half court game. That slower pace allowed Riverside to pound the ball in the low post to Aaron Scott and Kyle Austin for high percentage looks. Austin had a particularly strong first half, tallying 10 points and 7 boards.

At halftime, Riverside led 29-24.

In the second half, Jacques Streeter began hurting the Highlanders from distance.

Streeter opened the half by nailing a three off of a nice kick-out pass from Gerard Anderson. Three minutes later he hit another trey, cutting the Riverside lead to four at 34-30. Then with 7:10 left in the game, Streeter hit a third bomb, and was fouled during the shot. He converted the free throw for a key four-point play, and Fullerton pulled ahead 48-42. By game’s end, Streeter had hit 4 of 9 shots from three point land.

The second half also saw Akognon moving more without the ball, and as a result, he started to regain his stroke.

With 14:46 left in the game, Marcio Lassiter found an open Akognon in the midst of the Highlander zone, leading to a 15-foot, Akognon mid-range J. That bucket seemed to get Akognon untracked somewhat, and he proceeded to nail 2 treys plus another mid-range jumper during the second half.

But the real key to the Titans’ victory was their increased defensive intensity.

In the second half, Fullerton’s man-to-man defense became more aggressive, forcing 8 Highlander turnovers in the half. The Fullerton defense also caused Riverside to shoot a mere 27% in the second half, and only 36% for the game.

Burton said, “I loved our defense tonight. We are starting to play really good defense.”

That renewed focus on defense was best seen in one late sequence involving Fullerton big man Papa Guisse.

With approximately 2 minutes remaining and Riverside trailing 52-48, Guisse came over from the weak side to make a spectacular block on a driving Riverside player. The ball fell into the hands of Riverside’s Christian Soto, who was promptly swatted, again by Guisse. The sequence ultimately led to two Guisse free throws on the other end, and a commanding 54-48 Titans’ lead.

On Fullerton’s defense, Riverside coach Jim Woolridge said, “their defensive effort got ratcheted up, and we just couldn’t meet it.” He also said that Riverside was hurt by their “untimely turnovers.”

Although the Highlanders later cut the lead down to 54-52, only 32 seconds remained in the game. As a result, Riverside was forced to foul the Titans in order to have any hopes of extending the contest. Fullerton proceeded to hit all four of their late free throws, and prevailed 58-52.

The Titans next game will be February 5, 2009, against UC Santa Barbara at Titan Gym. Riverside will face Pacific at home, on the same date.


1. An unsung hero for the Titans was high-flying forward Gerard Anderson. Anderson was instrumental against the Riverside zone as he ran along the baseline for two spectacular lob dunks. He also served as a facilitator for the Titans offense, catching the ball in the lane and kicking it out to the shooters spotting up on the perimeter.

In the second half, Anderson established deep post position near the basket and gave the Titans several good scoring opportunities. One of those post touches resulted in a nice drop step move and dunk.

Anderson finished with 11 points, 6 boards, and 3 assists, on an efficient 5-7 shooting from the field.

2. USC transfer Austin was stellar in defeat. He demonstrated a nice post-up game, as the Highlanders ran much of their offense through him down low. His versatility was displayed when he also made several face-up plays on the perimeter. Of his 10 boards, seven were grabbed on the offensive end.

3. Fullerton was able to win despite poor team shooting, and an off game from their star. Akognon shot only 5 for 21 from the field, including a woeful 3 of 15 from three point land. Overall, the team shot 37%.

4. The Titans were outrebounded 39-33. They gave up 20 offensive rebounds to Riverside.

5. Woolridge was a former NBA assistant coach for the Chicago Bulls under Tim Floyd.

6. On the game, Coach Woolridge said, “we gave ourselves an opportunity to win the ballgame, the pace was right, and we just need to make a couple of more plays in the ballgame, and we could have won. But we had a lot of silly mistakes, and we couldn’t generate any offense when we needed to. That was the difference.”

7. Woolridge was pleased with his team’s overall defensive effort, pointing to Fullerton’s 37% shooting and 58 total points. He felt that Riverside’s defense helped “control the pace of the game.”

By Mike Elliott
Staff Editor for

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