GAME NOTES: The Titans of Cal State Fullerton aim to snap a three-game slide tonight, as they host fellow Big West Conference members UC Santa Barbara.
The Titans have won just once in the last six outings overall, a 78-73 final versus UC Riverside at home on Jan. 9. Since then the squad has dropped three straight in conference, including a 58-56 close call with Cal Poly at home two nights ago.
Over on the other side, the Gauchos have won three consecutive games and six of the last seven, en route to a 3-1 mark in conference play. On Thursday, UCSB also played a tight game, but in that case the Gauchos came out on the right side of a 68-65 overtime final versus UC Riverside on the road.
The relationship between these two teams dates back to 1976, as the Titans began with a six-game win streak, but since then UCSB has taken over and now owns a 40-36 advantage in the series. Last season, the teams split a pair of meetings, with Fullerton posting an 86-79 win in late December and then UCSB grabbing a 66-50 victory at home the first week of March.
The Gauchos led by as many as 17 points in the second half against UC Riverside on Thursday night, but that advantage disappeared and the visitors needed to go to overtime to secure the three-point win at SRC Arena. Alan Williams responded with 21 points and seven rebounds, followed by Zalmico Harmon and Mitch Brewe with 11 points apiece and Kyle Boswell 10 off the bench in the close call.
Although he has missed a couple of games, Williams continues to be one of the top scorers in the conference and in the nation with his 22.7 ppg, stemming from an impressive 55.5 percent shooting from the field. Boswell, second on the squad with 11.8 ppg, plays almost exclusively as a reserve as he connects on 46.2 percent of his 3-point tries. Michael Bryson (10.2 ppg) has also proven to be a clutch perimeter performer with 41.4 percent accuracy on the outside.
Of the nine shots he missed from the field, none was more dramatic than the final attempt of the night on Thursday as Alex Harris failed to keep the game going against Cal Poly at home. Harris finished with 10 points, shooting only 2-of-8 behind the 3-point line, while also turning the ball over six times. Michael Williams gave the Titans hope with a game-high 20 points, converting 3-of-7 beyond the arc while his teammates made a collective 3-of-13 from the outside.
Williams, the only Fullerton player to have started every game, accounts for 15.8 ppg and Harris is in for another 12.4 ppg as the pair represent the only double-digit scorers on the roster. Harris is shooting just 34.9 percent from the field and 24.7 percent beyond the arc, numbers that have dragged the entire group down to only 42.4 percent from the floor and 29.1 percent out on the perimeter as they generate 65.6 ppg.
The fact that UCSB has been solid on the road this season should give the visitors hope in this meeting. The UCSB Williams might find it hard to approach his scoring average, but still he should have his team in the mix for the win.
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