CSUF men’s basketball took on cross town rivals Long Beach State University in the quarterfinals of the Big West Tournament and came away with a close 76-74 victory.
The Titans entered the first match of the tournament determined to advance, something Head Coach Dedrique Taylor said is crucial if CSUF wants to become conference champions.
“This time of year, its all about surviving games,” Taylor said. “One thing I want to say about our group, no matter what was going on throughout the course of that game, they had a determined look to finish the game and finish it strong.”
Fullerton took the lead three minutes into the first half after Titans guard Kyle Allman completed two free throws which later turned into a four-point run.
The Titans’ defense proved to be tough to get through as they held the lead for 10 minutes of the first half.
However, the Beach managed to change the pace of the game and cut the deficit to one point (19-18), only to take control of the court after firing in 16 points to bring the score 35-31 to end the half.
Despite falling behind in the first period, Allman led the Titans with 11 points and three assist while guard Austen Awosika trailed behind with eight points.
The halftime break seemed to benefit Fullerton and gave them a chance to regain momentum.
Taylor said the Titans use of staple techniques in offense and defense helped them stay successful on the court, and it proved to be so as the Titans took back the game two minutes into the second half tying the match 38-38.
“We talk about defend, rebound and run and that is the one of pillar of our program,” Taylor said. “I feel like our team is at our best when we do that.”
However, the Titans opportunity to take the lead was short lived as Long Beach pushed five consecutive points on Fullerton’s defense.
Both teams had tied on seven different occasions just in the second half, which proved that this wouldn’t be an easy win.
The second half continued to be a power struggle between both teams as they seesawed on the scoreboard for the lead, however, CSUF took every free throw opportunity it was given in hopes that it could tack on another win.
Going 20-25 the whole game, Fullerton boasted an 80 percent completion at the free throw line, along with shooting above 50 percent in field goals, something Allman said kept the game going.
“Free throws would have made the game not so close,”Allman said. “It was good to be at the line and take care of it.”
— Titans Men’s Basketball (@FullertonHoops) March 9, 2018
The only trouble the Titans offense faced was in the three-point category where they only made eight attempts throughout the game and only completed two off the hands of guard Khalil Ahmad and forward Jackson Rowe.
As the game grew closer to an end, every play became crucial to both teams as they both battled for the lead as they switch the one point lead twice one minute left in the match.
Long Beach was quick to return to the score board all match long, however, some foul-play in the final seconds gave Fullerton an opportunity it wasn’t going to pass up on.
Allman went 10-14 in free throws and missed three of the four that were awarded to the Titans in the final 40 seconds. However, with the defense holding strong a final tip-in attempt from Long Beach proved no match for Rowe as he was able to get the final rebound, his eighth in the game, to advance the Titans into the semi-finals.
Although the Titans battled for the win until the last second, Taylor also credits an outside force for CSUF’s success at the Honda Center.
“The basketball gods smiled at us tonight and gave us the opportunity to keep playing,” Taylor said. “Today gave us a different level of confidence, gave us an opportunity to get into the building and get into the environment and try to get used to the setting.”
Fullerton will return to the Honda Center at 6:30 p.m. for the semifinals against the UC Davis Aggies.