GAME NOTES: The Cal State Fullerton Titans will begin their final homestand of the season on Thursday night when they tangle with the Cal State Northridge Matadors in a Big West Conference bout at Titan Gym.
CSUN is situated slightly below .500 this season both overall (14-15) and in the Big West (6-7), but it has played better in recent weeks with wins in three of its last five contests. The Matadors' latest bout ended in a 81-75 triumph over UC Irvine at home last Saturday, but success on the road has come few and far between (2-12).
Unlike CSUN, Fullerton is trending in the wrong direction, having lost five of its last seven games, most recently falling on the wrong end of an 80-65 final at UC Santa Barbara on Saturday. The Titans have struggled all season long at just 9-17, including a 4-8 mark in league play.
The first meeting between these teams this season ended with CSUN earning a 92-83 home win in overtime on Feb. 8, although Fullerton still leads the all- time series, 38-31.
The Matadors put up a great performance last weekend against one of the league's best teams, as they shot 43.2 percent from the field and a lights-out 38-of-43 from the free-throw line as they overcame a 15-point second-half deficit to capture the six-point home victory over UCI. Stephen Maxwell made up for the fact that he committed seven turnovers by tallying 20 points and eight rebounds. Josh Greene knocked down all 11 of his free-throw tries for 17 points to go with six assists, while Stephan Hicks and Ben Vozzola netted 16 and 11 points, respectively.
On the season, CSUN boasts an impressive offensive attack, shooting 45.1 percent from the field for 75.3 ppg, but its porous defense has allowed its opponents to perform even better on the other end of the floor (.452, 76.5 ppg). The squad has the good fortune of having one of the nation's best scoring trios in Maxwell (17.6 ppg), Hicks (16.6 ppg) and Greene (15.3 ppg). Maxwell (8.8 rpg) and Hicks (7.0 rpg) are both active on the glass, and Greene has been spectacular at the charity stripe (.918).
The Titans never put up much of a fight in their most recent contest, as they were outshot from the floor by UCSB, 56.5 percent to 38.2 percent, outscored at the free-throw line, 24-14, and outrebounded, 34-28, en route to the 15- point defeat. Michael Williams was excellent in spite of the setback, draining 5-of-10 from the free-throw line on his way to 29 points. Alex Harris was also stellar with 13 points. The shooting struggles were nothing new for Fullerton, which makes good on just 42.4 percent of its field goal tries this season (including only 32.7 percent from beyond the arc) for 67.3 ppg. Its scoring defense (71.1 ppg) hasn't been much to brag about either. Williams is the Big West's fifth-leading scorer with 17.3 ppg and connects on 2.3 3-pointers per game at a 37.1 percent clip. Harris (15.3 ppg) is a solid second option but shoots less than 40 percent from the field.
Although CSUN has been the better team this season and got the best of Fullerton earlier this month, it has been a completely different team away from Northridge and will be hard-pressed to overcome its road surroundings in this one.
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