Khalil Ahmad leads Cal State Fullerton men’s basketball to big wins over Cal Poly and UC Davis

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(Kyle Allman, 0, Pictured Above) (Katie Albertson / Daily Titan File Photo)

Cal State Fullerton men’s basketball delivered two victories last week with the help of guard Khalil Ahmad. His 22 points against Cal Poly paved the way for the 75-59 win at Titan Gym, and his 31 points against UC Davis helped the Titans inch out a 68-66 win.

These games complete season sweeps against both opponents, but the team relished its victory over Davis a little more.

It means a lot, especially considering how we lost to them in the tournament last year,” Ahmad told Cal State Fullerton Sports Media.

Cal Poly closed the gap to 2 points after CSUF created an 18-point lead, but the Titans responded with a 24-10 run to end the game.

“We challenged this group to come out, compete, play hard and play together, and I thought we did that right from the start. Had a little rough patch there in the second half but they fought through adversity and gave ourselves a chance to win,” said Titans Head Coach Dedrique Taylor.

Taylor switched up the starting lineup against Cal Poly, moving Ahmad and guard Kyle Allman to the bench as punishment for a team violation, while Jamal Smith and Dwight Ramos received the start. The change sparked a sensational first half for the Titans.

The team addressed all of last game’s woes, forcing four turnovers, dishing out nine assists and grabbing 17 rebounds. Taylor was not surprised by his team’s comeback.

“They know what to do and they know how to do it. It’s just a matter of whether or not they’re going to do it and do it consistently. Those are all things that our ball club is accustomed to doing, and when we do those things, I think we’re pretty good,” Taylor said.

Forward Arkim Robertson, who finished with 13 points, six rebounds and three blocks, was one of the stabilizing forces for the Titans. The big man credited his big night to wanting to put an end to their losing habits.

“I came out with the mindset to get every rebound, dive on the ground and play hard,” Robertson said. 

The Mustangs went on their 20-4 run to get back into the game while Robertson was on the bench.

After scoring a combined 13 points over his last three games, Ahmad’s coaches and teammates motivated him to lock in and stay aggressive in ways other than hitting shots. While he managed to dish out four dimes and get his hands on one steal, his presence was defined by his ability to get buckets.

Finishing 8-12 from the field, Ahmad looked to score in the paint before branching out to the three-point line.

“I haven’t made a three since, like, a couple of months or something crazy like that so I figured a layup would be easier,” Ahmad said.

He had only gone two games without hitting a 3-pointer.

More of the same came from Ahmad in Saturday night’s game at UC Davis. The guard did most of his damage in the first half, scoring 20 of his 31 total points during the period.

“My teammates had confidence in me, so that helped my confidence. Then I saw the ball go in really early and that helped my confidence a lot,” Ahmad told Cal State Fullerton Sports Media.

The 31-point effort from Ahmad helped him reach the 1,000 point club at CSUF. He only needed nine points in the game to break that mark. 

Allman carried most of the workload in the second half, scoring 19 points and knocking down clutch free throws down the stretch.

CSUF outrebounded Davis by seven in the contest, which Taylor said was the biggest advantage the team gave itself in the game.

“That’s a good team that we beat tonight. Our guys stuck with it and found a way to win. That’s what happens on the road. You’ve got to find a way to win, and we did that tonight,” Taylor told Cal State Fullerton Sports Media.

The Titans will have a week of practice to build on their progress before hosting Cal State Northridge on Saturday, Feb. 17.

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