It has been a long season with the obstacles that have been endured throughout the year, but it has finally come to an end for the Cal State Fullerton men’s basketball team.
The Titans ended their season with a loss in their first round game of the Big West Tournament to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Tuesday night in Las Vegas.
Cal Poly SLO controlled the main facets of the game, and exemplified an exceptional all-around performance from the team. Five Mustangs scored double-digits in points while they accounted for 19 assists as a team.
“Cal Poly came out and really established themselves on the offensive end of the floor,” said Dedrique Taylor, CSUF’s head coach. “They did everything that they wanted to do from an execution standpoint.”
As they walked away with a 87-82 victory, Cal Poly SLO will face UC Irvine in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
After Fullerton scored the first basket, Cal Poly SLO went on a 17-0 run and took a commanding 14 point lead.The 2-3 zone that Cal Poly SLO implemented gave Fullerton some problems on offense, but the Titan’s 3-point shooting kept them within striking distance and accounted for seven of 11 field goals made in the first half.
The Mustangs’ offense had the upper hand throughout the half as they out shot Fullerton in what seemed like a 3-point shootout. From the field, the Mustangs shot an accurate 51.7% on their attempts, while they went 6-10 from behind the 3-point line. Fullerton, however, shot 37.9% on their attempts and went 7-16 on their 3-point shots.
Despite the uneven shooting numbers, the Titans managed to cut their deficit to four points, as they went on an 8-0 run before they went into halftime.
The Mustangs continued to dominate the rest of the game, attacking the Titans from inside the paint and out on the 3-point line. The Mustangs’ offense maintained a balanced effort, scoring 30 of their points in the paint with another 36 points coming from 3-pointers.
Although Cal Poly SLO increased its lead to double-digits toward the end of the game, CSUF put together a final stand and came back within three points with less than a minute to spare. Tory San Antonio provided a 3-pointer during the final minute that gave Fullerton a chance to force overtime.
The sophomore guard helped fuel the Titans’ comeback efforts, as he provided a burst of energy upon entering the final stretch of the game. He scored eight of his 16 points in the final five minutes of the game.
Fullerton failed in its comeback attempt, as they were blocked on one shot and airballed another before Cal Poly SLO sealed the game with a pair of free throws.
“I wish we could have kept going, but it didn't work out like that. But we got to get to it next year,” San Antonio said. “We kept fighting. We got to this point. So we have warriors on this team. We got to let it translate to the court.”
Cal Poly SLO guard Colby Rogers led all scorers for the night, and ended the contest with 21 points, six rebounds and four assists. Alimamy Koroma had an efficient game in only 16 minutes of action, and went 7-9 for shooting with 18 points.
On the night, the Mustangs offense wore on the Titan’s defense, and finished the game as they made 12-18 of their 3-pointers while they shot 56.6% from the field.
“As a college basketball player, you would want to have the looks that they had tonight. And I feel like if we really wanted to, like get a stop today, we would have closed out a little bit more. If we took away two more threes we would’ve won the game, but we just didn't defend the three point line,” San Antonio said.
Junior forward Landis Spivey gave Fullerton the spark they needed coming off the bench, despite losing efforts. He led the Titans in scoring, and contributed 17 points while they went 4-11 from the 3-point line and 5-5 on his free-throws.
Although the loss ends CSUF’s season, the majority of the Titan’s roster is expected to return. Only two seniors were on the roster this season, meaning the underclassmen will have another opportunity to further develop toward next season, while taking from all that they have learned from this year.
“I think it's super simple, and it might sound crazy, but you know, we're still here,” Taylor said. “We're still here, we still have an opportunity. And tonight was one of those chances, and we missed and we didn't take advantage of it the way we wanted to. But I think we look back and we are appreciative of all that we have been through.”