CSUF men’s basketball edge out LBSU in conference tilt

In CSUF, Men's Basketball, Sports
CSUF men's basketball guard Jamal Smith advances the ball upcourt to Khalil Ahmad.
(Eliza Green / Daily Titan)

Cal State Fullerton men’s basketball defeated Long Beach State 85-82 in a game that came down to the final seconds. With Khalil Ahmad’s 19 points on the night, the Titans nabbed their seventh win in the last eight games.

Ahmad quickly found the hot hand with 10 points in the first five minutes of the second half. He finished the night shooting 6-for-14 from the field.

CSUF had five players in double-figure numbers and collectively shot 50 percent from the field. Jackson Rowe, Kyle Allman Jr., Austen Awosika, Wayne Arnold and Ahmad combined to score 72 of the Titans’ 85 points.

With this loss, Long Beach State has dropped seven of their last eight games. However, Mason Riggins and Temidayo Yussuf performed well for the 49ers, as the two combined for 34 points.

The Titans cruised the majority of the game and maintained the lead for over 30 minutes. With their largest lead of the game, the Titans’ 12-point advantage quickly slipped once the 49ers gained momentum. With Long Beach in possession and the success of a 3-point shot to send the game into overtime, Awosika put the 49ers’ hope to bed with a steal to end the contest.

Ahmad, who ranks fourth in the Big West in scoring, struggled in the first half, missing all four of his field goal attempts and scoring only two points that came via the free-throw line.

With Ahmad getting off to a slow start, Arnold provided the Titans with quality offense off the bench in the first half. Within his first 14 minutes, Arnold shot four-of-eight from the field including two 3-pointers.  

The Titans’ bench combined for 21 points and head coach Dedrique Taylor praised the bench’s effort in contributing to the win.

“That’s just the beauty of having a team, I thought Wayne and Josh (Pitts) in particular really helped us win that ball game tonight,” said Taylor.

Taylor credited Arnold’s big game to his growth as a player over the course of the season.

“He’s no longer a freshman,” Taylor said. “He didn’t put his head down, he just competes, he sticks his nose in and when he does those things, he’s pretty good.”

The Titans seemed to put the 49ers’ offense out of sync after switching to a zone defense.

“It was part of our game plan to try to take them out of their rhythm,” Taylor said.

With that game plan, the 49ers struggled to find rhythm at the end of the first half,  scoring only two points in the final seven minutes.

49er Deishaun Booker ranks fifth in the Big West in scoring but  was held scoreless in the first half.

Awosika was tasked with defending Booker and was aware of his ability to get to the line, but credited his teammates for their assistance with defense.

“I think it was a team effort, I feel like I wasn’t out there on an island so I was comfortable playing defense,” Awosika said.

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