Alexander: UC Irvine worn down by UC Santa Barbara in Big West final

Usually, the UC Irvine men’s basketball team wears people down. On Saturday night in Las Vegas, the Anteaters were on the other end of that process, and maybe it says something about this strangest of seasons.

Or maybe it’s just one of those years.

Russell Turner’s 2020-21 team is really young, and it ran into a UC Santa Barbara team with a senior leader who was not only the Big West Conference Player of the Year – and conference tournament MVP – but a young man with a long memory. JaQuori McLaughlin played 39 of 40 minutes and scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half, along with three of his four 3-pointers during a 15-4 run that put the game away, in UCSB’s convincing 79-63 victory at the Mandalay Bay arena.

Gauchos coach Joe Pasternack made sure he put a reminder on his team’s whiteboard of the first two meetings between the teams in late December, 19- and four-point UCI victories at the Bren Events Center.

“We didn’t forget about that the whole year,” McLaughlin said. “And when we got to this game, we were ready. We just do what we did as a team and scouted them as good as we could in one day. And we just did a good job of following the game plan as a team.”

Bottom line: The Gauchos are going to the NCAA Tournament (and in another weird coincidence, so is the school from which McLaughlin transferred, Oregon State). Meanwhile, the Anteaters who will return – which should be almost everyone – will have a memory to keep them fired up in years to come.

“I had this experience as a freshman, as well,” said Brad Greene, UCI’s 6-foot-11 senior center. “I lost in the championship game then, and I know that really fueled me coming into that summer and the seasons after. And so I know each of these young guys coming up will be really ready to play.”

To be precise, Greene had this experience back-to-back years. UCI lost to UC Davis in the final his freshman year and to Cal State Fullerton his sophomore year. He redshirted in 2019, when the Anteaters not only swept through the Big West Tournament but knocked off Kansas State in the first round while going 31-6. And who’s to say last year’s 21-11 team didn’t have a similar run in it before COVID-19 shut the whole thing down.

Results matter this year, as they always do. But it doesn’t hurt to evaluate them in relation to all of the other things that players and coaches have dealt with while trying to play through the worst pandemic in a century: Isolation, testing, restrictions on practice time, when you can gather, how you bond as a team. If you got through the season and played all or most of your scheduled games and didn’t have anyone come down with COVID, isn’t that a victory of sorts?

UCI had a January two-game series with Cal State Northridge and another two-game set with UC Davis canceled and a game against UC San Diego postponed. UCSB lost a series against Long Beach State in early February. The Gauchos were relatively lucky.

Maybe this entire Pandemic Basketball experience will turn out to have had a positive impact on players just from the standpoint of resiliency and a renewed appreciation of the game.

“There have been – I don’t know if consequences is the right word, but this season’s hard,” Turner said. “Our guys have been away from their families. This has been a tough grind. And the buy-in that our young group has had has been outstanding. And Brad, as a leader of this team, as the captain, gets most of the credit for holding the locker room together, but also our staff. … I don’t know how to measure this. It’s hard and there’s an impact. There’s a psychological, there’s an emotional impact of everything we’ve experienced.

“So what I hope is that it’s going to make us better. We’re going to have to try to figure that out, continue to adapt and grow, but that’ll be a challenge.”

How does a player in a position of leadership help his teammates through all of this?

“It’s been rough,” Greene said. “There’s not a lot of outlets for the guys. Usually, during the season people have fans. They have their families coming to games. They have friends there with them. They’re able to socialize outside of it. This year, I thought we did a really good job with just staying together on campus, staying together with one another, creating our own energy in games.”

That might be another of those things that are important but go unnoticed. In buildings without fans, the emotion and enthusiasm the bench provides can be critical.

“To battle through the conference with no fans, with just ourselves, achieve a second-place (finish) and then again to make it all the way to the conference championship in the Big West Tournament, I feel like it was just our guys and wanting to compete, wanting to be with one another,” Greene said. “A lot of these guys are really close to me now.

“As a fifth-year (senior), you know, you’ve got to build those connections. And I feel like this group is phenomenal and I’m really looking forward to what they can bring together in the future.”

Might that have been a warning to the rest of the Big West?

jalexander@scng.com

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

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Long Beach State women lose heartbreaker to Cal Poly in Big West tourney

The juxtaposition of playing a great game and losing on a broken play left Long Beach State coach Jeff Cammon laughing even though he was hurting inside.

Long Beach had virtually completed a stout defensive team effort in its Big West Tournament quarterfinal against Cal Poly on Wednesday night in Las Vegas. LBSU led by one with 6.7 seconds left, drew up the proper defense for the Mustangs’ last play, then watched it all slip away at Mandalay Bay.

Cal Poly’s Abbey Ellis’ pass on the in-bounds play ricocheted off two players and rolled to the lane, where sophomore Maddie Willett, with Long Beach’s Ma’Qhi Berry bracing her on defense, tossed up a no-look, left-handed hook shot.

“At that point, it’s up to the basketball gods,” Cammon said.

And the ball swished through the basket to give sixth-seeded Cal Poly a 61-60 win and eliminate third-seeded Long Beach (12-9).

“I didn’t anticipate this ending,” Cammon said. “It’s a tough way to lose and it hurts like heck. We did a great job initially. We almost had a defensive steal, and then the ball trickles to Willow. Ma’Qhi had her sealed out.”

Cal Poly (13-10) had two options on the in-bounds play and Coach Faith Mimnaugh acknowledged that Long Beach shut off both of those options.

“We were lucky to get the ball back after the deflection,” said Mimnaugh, whose team advances to a semifinal against No. 2 seed UC Irvine on Friday at 3 p.m.

It was Long Beach’s third loss to Cal Poly this season, and LBSU was eliminated from last season’s event by the Mustangs before the rest of the tournament was canceled because of the pandemic.

Naomi Hunt led Long Beach with 14 points, King added 13 points, four rebounds, four assists, and three steals, Imani Lacy had 11 points and five rebounds and Berry had nine points, three rebounds and three assists.

Sierra Campisano was a one-woman show for Cal Poly, posting 30 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out with 3:06 left.

The Mustangs led 54-51 when she fouled out, but Kristyna Jeskeova (seven rebounds) scored inside and Hunt drove the lane for a score. That plus four free throws gave Long Beach a 60-57 lead with 48 seconds left. Two Willet free throws cut the lead to one. Berry was fouled with 6.9 seconds left but she missed both free-throw attempts, leading to the final sequence.

“We had chances to build a lead so we wouldn’t be in that type of situation,” Cammon said. “We really played well on defense but didn’t keep them off the boards as well as we wanted.”

Cal Poly had a 42-25 rebounding advantage in a game that had eight ties and 13 lead changes, neither team ever leading by more than eight points.

Long Beach, which led by that margin midway through the third quarter, only turned over the ball eight times while notching 11 steals. But LBSU also was only 10 for 27 on layup attempts. That misery was spread around, and it was an issue at times during the season.

“Our ladies are competitive, and they’re tired of just going in the right direction,” Cammon said. “But it is a process. You never stop learning life lessons. This one just hurt.”

Abbey Ellis had 12 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for Cal Poly. Willett finished with 10 points.

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Cal Poly bounces Cal State Fullerton from Big West Tournament

  • Cal Poly’s Colby Rogers drives with the ball as Cal State Fullerton’s Tray Maddox Jr. defends during Tuesday night’s Big West Tournament first-round game at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Cal Poly won, 87-82. (Photo courtesy of the Big West Conference)

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    Tuukka Jaakkola goes up for a high-percentage shot during Tuesday night’s game against Cal State Fullerton in a Big West Tournament first-round game at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. (Photo courtesy of the Big West Conference)

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  • Cal State Fullerton’s Landis Spivey attempts a 3-point shot during Tuesday night’s Big West Tournament first-round game against Cal Poly at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Cal Poly won, 87-82. (Photo courtesy of the Big West Conference)

  • (Photo courtesy of the Big West Conference)

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  • Cal Poly’s Keith Smith evades the defense of Cal State Fullerton’s Landis Spivey as he soars to the basket during Tuesday night’s Big West Tournament first-round game at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Cal Poly won, 87-82. (Photo courtesy of the Big West Conference)

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The Cal State Fullerton men’s basketball team had a great finish in its Big West Tournament first-round game against Cal Poly on Tuesday night.

It was the start that led to the Titans’ early exit.

Tenth-seeded Cal Poly opened the game with a 17-3 run and just kept running all night, turning in its best game of the season in an 87-82 victory over the seventh-seeded Titans at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

The Titans trailed by 13 with 3:39 left, then furiously fought back to get within three points with 55 seconds left. After a Cal Poly miss, Landis Spivey had his 3-point shot blocked out of bounds by Cal Poly’s Riley Till. Spivey’s second effort on the ensuing inbounds play was off-balance, and the Mustangs (4-19) put the game away with two free throws.

Fullerton coach Dedrique Taylor had a lot of good things to say about Cal Poly’s effort, since former Titans assistant John Smith is the Mustangs’ head coach. Taylor just lamented that his team didn’t play its best game.

“Cal Poly established themselves on offense, shot the 3-pointers especially well and they were good in the paint,” said Taylor, whose team finished 6-10. “We didn’t get much done there.

“We had good energy late. But we weren’t the lead dog. We let things happen instead of making them happen. They got wide-open shots and we didn’t make the extra effort to get to them, not with our rotation or our communication.”

Cal Poly becomes the first No. 10 seed to win a Big West tourney game since 1994 – the tournament had been using an eight-team bracket (or six) since 1995 before changing the format this year. The Mustangs advance to face No. 2 seed UC Irvine (16-8) in a quarterfinal on Thursday at 5 p.m.

The Titans received fine efforts from two reserves: Spivey scored 17 points and Tory San Antonio had 16, each making four 3-pointers. Dante Maddox Jr. added 15 points, while Tray Maddox Jr. had a rough night shooting, scoring eight points on 2-for-14 shooting.

Cal Poly, which was 1-15 during conference play, turned in its best effort of the season by far. The Mustangs averaged just 60 points per game this season and were not particularly efficient from the 3-point line, shooting 30 percent.

But they were aggressive from the start. They made 12 of 18 3-point attempts and were led by Colby Rogers (a career-high-tying 21 points), Alimamy Koroma (18 points), Keith Smith (10 points, six assists), Tuukka Jaakkola (10 points) and Kobe Sanders (10 points). They outscored the Titans 30-8 on fast-breaks and had 30 points in the paint.

“We took advantage of things against their defense and attacked them in press, which led to some easy baskets,” Poly coach Smith said. “I preached to them that we could win if we stayed disciplined and resilient. We really embraced the moment.”

For Fullerton, it was a disappointing end to a pandemic-disrupted season.

“It’s a tough way to go out,” Taylor said. “You get to this point, you hate to see it. But we deserved what we got.”

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Hawaii edges Long Beach State in Big West series opener

HONOLULU, Hawaii – Chance Hunter had 23 points, nine rebounds and four steals and had a great look to be the hero for Long Beach State, but the final shot didn’t fall and Hawaii handed LBSU a 78-76 defeat late Friday night in the opener of their two-game Big West Conference series.

Long Beach (5-8 overall, 4-5 Big West) had an outstanding opportunity in the final seconds after Hawaii’s Casdon Jardine threw the ball out of bounds with seven seconds left. Long Beach set up a play for its hottest shooter in Hunter, who was open on the wing but the shot came up short and the Rainbow Warriors (9-8, 7-8 Big West) held on for the win.

LBSU opted for a smaller, four-guard starting lineup and opened a 16-5 lead in the first six minutes, pushing its lead to 16 points on a jumper from Hunter with just over six minutes left in the first half. Long Beach shot 56 percent in the first half, going 5 for 10 from 3-point range, but Hawaii settled down in the closing minutes and trimmed the margin to 39-30 by the intermission.

LBSU still shot well in the second half but Hawaii outdid them at 63 percent, including a 5-for-7 mark from beyond the arc. The Warriors took their first lead at 61-60 at the 10-minute mark, and neither team led by more than four the rest of the way.

Isaiah Washington had 17 points and a team-high four assists for Long Beach, but the senior guard battled cramps throughout and played a season-low 28 minutes. Jadon Jones added 12 points and Michael Carter III had 11.

Justin Webster had 16 points to pace Hawaii. JoVon McClanahan had 13 points, Justin Hemsley added 12 points and seven rebounds and Mate Colina had 10 points.

The teams square off again on Saturday at 7 p.m. PT.

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UC Irvine basketball atop Big West preseason media poll

For the fourth consecutive season – and seventh in the last eight – the UC Irvine men’s basketball team is the choice to win the Big West Conference regular-season title in the preseason media poll.

UCI received 18 first-place votes from the 28-member media panel to top the annual poll with 270 points. UC Santa Barbara finished second with 254 points (nine first-place votes). The remaining first-place nod went to UC Davis, which came in third with 182 points. Hawaii placed fourth with 165 points, followed by UC Riverside in fifth (160) and Long Beach State in sixth (141). First-year Big West member Cal State Bakersfield was seventh. Cal State Northridge (102 points), Cal State Fullerton (95) and Cal Poly (54) rounded out the rest of the poll, respectively.

UC San Diego, in its inaugural season as a Big West member, has started a four-year reclassfication period from NCAA Division II to Division I. The Tritons will not be recognized in the standings, so they were not included in the poll.

UCI (21-11 overall, 13-3 Big West last season), returns 53 percent of its scoring offense and two all-conference players (junior forward Collin Welp and senior center Brad Greene). Coming off their eighth consecutive winning season and a second straight Big West regular-season title, the Anteater roster includes 13 underclassmen and five new faces.

Welp, the 2019-20 Big West Sixth Man of the Year and a first-team all-conference selection, is UCI’s top returning scorer after averaging 13 points per game on 47.6 percent shooting from the field. Last season, Welp led the team in 3-point field goal percentage (44.2 percent) and was second in rebounding (5.9 rpg). Greene averaged 9 points and a Big West-best 7.7 rebounds per game. His 1.4 blocked shots per game ranked second in the conference.

Welp and Long Beach State junior guard Chance Hunter were named to the media’s six-player preseason all-conference team.

Hunter led LBSU (11-21, 6-10 last season) in scoring (13.9 ppg) and ranked in the conference’s top 10 in scoring, rebounding (5.9 rpg), field goal percentage and 3-point field goal percentage (41.7 percent) last season.

UC Riverside’s Arinze Chidom, UC Davis’ Ezra Manjon and the UCSB duo of JaQuiri McLaughlin and Amadou Sow joined Welp and Hunter on the preseason all-conference team.

UCI opens the season with a neutral site game against Pepperdine on Nov. 25 at San Diego State’s Viejas Arena. The Anteaters square off with host SDSU two days later.

BIG WEST PRESEASON MEDIA POLL

1. UC Irvine (18 first-place votes) – 270

2. UC Santa Barbara (9) – 254

3. UC Davis (1) – 182

4. Hawaii – 165

5. UC Riverside – 160

6. Long Beach State – 141

7. Cal State Bakersfield – 117

8. Cal State Northridge – 102

9. Cal State Fullerton – 95

10. Cal Poly (SLO) – 54

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Cal State Fullerton women focus on future after Big West tourney loss to Hawaii

  • After finding the lane blocked by a Hawaii defender, Cal State Fullerton forward Amiee Book passes the ball off during a Big West Conference women’s tournament quarterfinal game on Wednesday night at Long Beach State. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • CSU Fullerton guard Raina Perez #2 takes a shot in the first half against Hawaii in the Big West Conference women’s tournament quarterfinals in Long Beach on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

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  • CSU Fullerton guard Raina Perez #2 works her way to the basket in the Big West Conference women’s tournament quarterfinals in Long Beach on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Hawaii guard Julissa Tago #0 stretches for a rebound against CSU Fullerton in the Big West Conference women’s tournament quarterfinals in Long Beach on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • CSU Fullerton guard Raina Perez #2 finds her shot blocked by a Hawaii defender in the Big West Conference women’s tournament quarterfinals in Long Beach on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • CSU Fullerton forward Amiee Book #13 tries to work her way to the basket against Hawaii in the Big West Conference women’s tournament quarterfinals in Long Beach on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Hawai’i head coach Laura Beeman chats with guard Nae Nae Calhoun #24 in the Big West Conference women’s tournament quarterfinals in Long Beach on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • A lone credentialed spectator watches the game from the upper row of the Walter Pyramid in the Big West Conference women’s tournament quarterfinals in Long Beach on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Hawaii forward Amy Atwell #25 takes a shot in the Walter Pyramid empty of fans in the Big West Conference women’s tournament quarterfinals in Long Beach on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • CSU Fullerton head coach Jeff Harada gets frustrated after a turnover in the Big West Conference women’s tournament quarterfinals in Long Beach on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • CSU Fullerton guard Raina Perez #2 runs the offense in the Big West Conference women’s tournament quarterfinals in Long Beach on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • CSU Fullerton guard Raina Perez #2 drives the ball to the basket around Hawaii guard Nae Nae Calhoun #24 in the Big West Conference women’s tournament quarterfinals in Long Beach on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • CSU Fullerton forward Carolyn Gill #23 loses the ball under her basket in the Big West Conference women’s tournament quarterfinals in Long Beach on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • CSU Fullerton head coach Jeff Harada watches from his bench in the Big West Conference women’s tournament quarterfinals in Long Beach on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • CSU Fullerton bench erupts after a 3-pointer in the Big West Conference women’s tournament quarterfinals in Long Beach on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • CSU Fullerton guard Raina Perez, right, has the ball stripped away by Hawai’i forward Myrrah Joseph #5 in the Big West Conference women’s tournament quarterfinals in Long Beach on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • CSU Fullerton forward Madison Freemon #22 reaches for a rebound against Hawaii in the Big West Conference women’s tournament quarterfinals in Long Beach on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • CSU Fullerton and Hawaii in a spectator free area in the Big West Conference women’s tournament quarterfinals in Long Beach on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • CSU Fullerton guard Taylor Turney #21 scores on a layup in the Big West Conference women’s tournament quarterfinals in Long Beach on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

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LONG BEACH — The revival of women’s basketball at Cal State Fullerton took a pause Wednesday night. But Coach Jeff Harada says that is all it will be.

The Titans posted their first winning season since 1991 then won their first Big West Conference Tournament game since 2015 on Tuesday, but they were beaten by Hawaii 72-59 in their quarterfinal game at the Walter Pyramid.

They finish the season 17-14, return everyone for the 2020-21 season, and have learned a lot about winning games and handling adversity.

“I’m extremely proud of what they have accomplished this season,” said Harada, in his third season. “They put up with me every day, and I can be tough and don’t let them slide. But all that is why we are where we are.

“This doesn’t take away anything we accomplished this season.”

“We’ve gained so much confidence this season,” junior Taylor Turney said. “We were picked to finish ninth in the league, and we almost finished second and we got to the quarterfinals.

“We’ve already talked about what we can do next season, how we can take this further.”

The Titans were playing for the second time in as many days while Hawaii finished its season Saturday. The Rainbow Wahines have one of the deepest benches in the league; nine players rotated into the game and seven finished with seven points or more.

The score was tied at 6-6 when Hawaii went on a 12-1 run to take an 18-7 lead after a quarter, basically putting a hold on the game and allowing the Wahine to dictate the pace and keep Fullerton chasing.

The Titans made just two of 13 shots in the first quarter.

“They sped us up early and threw off our timing,” Harada said. “When we did get opportunities, we kind of rushed our shots. That was basically the game. The margin the last three quarters was just two points.”

Hawaii did whatever it could to take Big West Player of the Year Raina Perez out of the game, crowding her regardless of where she was on the court.

“They switched screens and built a wall around her so that she couldn’t even kick a pass out,” Harada said.

Perez scored 10 points and made just four of 20 shots for 10 points. Julissa Tago led Hawaii with 15 points, and Nae Calhoun had 10. Turney led the Titans with 16 points and Aimee Book added 14.

Hawaii coach Laura Beeman said the Wahine’s depth was a factor.

“We have two or three players on the bench who are good enough to start, but no one feels entitled because we use everyone,” she said. “We pick each other up knowing we have that much bench.”

The women’s tournament continues with semifinals on Friday afternoon at the Honda Center. Eighth-seeded Cal Poly, which defeated No. 3 seed UC Irvine, will face top-seeded UC Davis at noon and Hawaii will face No. 2 seed UC Santa Barbara at 2:30 p.m. The championship game is Saturday at 3 p.m.

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Long Beach State women eliminate Cal State Fullerton in Big West tourney opener

  • Long Beach State’s Kianna Hamilton-Fisher steals the ball from Cal State Fullerton’s Triann Thompson, left, during their first-round game in the Big West Conference Women’s Tournament on Tuesday night at UCI’s Bren Events Center. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Shanaijah Davison #21 of the Long Beach State 49ers celebrates scoring a basket during their first round game against Cal State Fullerton in the Big West Women’s Tournament at UCI’s Bren Events Center in Irvine on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Long Beach State defeated Cal State Fullerton 60-54. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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  • Raina Perez #2 of the CSU Fullerton Titans steals the ball from Justina King #10 of the Long Beach State 49ers during their first round game in the Big West Women’s Tournament at UCI’s Bren Events Center in Irvine on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Long Beach State defeated Cal State Fullerton 60-54. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Naomi Hunt #42 of the Long Beach State 49ers scores past the CSU Fullerton defense during their first round game in the Big West Women’s Tournament at UCI’s Bren Events Center in Irvine on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Long Beach State defeated Cal State Fullerton 60-54. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Kianna Hamilton-Fisher #25 of the Long Beach State 49ers celebrates with teammates after their first round game against Cal State Fullerton in the Big West Women’s Tournament at UCI’s Bren Events Center in Irvine on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Long Beach State defeated Cal State Fullerton 60-54. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Justina King #10 of the Long Beach State 49ers tries to stop Raina Perez #2 of the CSU Fullerton Titans during their first round game in the Big West Women’s Tournament at UCI’s Bren Events Center in Irvine on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Long Beach State defeated Cal State Fullerton 60-54. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Long Beach State’s Cydnee Kinslow blocks a shot by Cal State Fullerton’s Daeja Smith during their first-round game in the Big West Conference Women’s Tournament on Tuesday night at UCI’s Bren Events Center. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Cal State Fullerton head coach Jeff Harada on the sidelines during their first round game against Long Beach State in the Big West Women’s Tournament at UCI’s Bren Events Center in Irvine on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Long Beach State defeated Cal State Fullerton 60-54. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Jade Vega #1 of the CSU Fullerton Titans scores past Lauren Green #23 of the Long Beach State 49ers during their first round game in the Big West Women’s Tournament at UCI’s Bren Events Center in Irvine on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Long Beach State defeated Cal State Fullerton 60-54. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Raina Perez #2 of the CSU Fullerton Titans scores past Lauren Green #23 of the Long Beach State 49ers during their first round game in the Big West Women’s Tournament at UCI’s Bren Events Center in Irvine on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Long Beach State defeated Cal State Fullerton 60-54. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Long Beach State 49ers head coach Jeff Cammon on the sidelines during their first round game against CSU Fullerton in the Big West Women’s Tournament at UCI’s Bren Events Center in Irvine on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Long Beach State defeated Cal State Fullerton 60-54. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Long Beach State 49ers head coach Jeff Cammon talks to his players during a timeout during their first round game against CSU Fullerton in the Big West Women’s Tournament at UCI’s Bren Events Center in Irvine on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Long Beach State defeated Cal State Fullerton 60-54. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Cydnee Kinslow #1 of the Long Beach State 49ers battles for a rebound with Daeja Smith #32 of the CSU Fullerton Titans during their first round game in the Big West Women’s Tournament at UCI’s Bren Events Center in Irvine on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Long Beach State defeated Cal State Fullerton 60-54. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Jade Vega #1 of the CSU Fullerton Titans battles past Shanaijah Davison #21 of the Long Beach State 49ers during their first round game in the Big West Women’s Tournament at UCI’s Bren Events Center in Irvine on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Long Beach State defeated Cal State Fullerton 60-54. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Justina King #10 of the Long Beach State 49ers is called for a charge on Carolyn Gill #23 of the CSU Fullerton Titans during their first round game in the Big West Women’s Tournament at UCI’s Bren Events Center in Irvine on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Long Beach State defeated Cal State Fullerton 60-54. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Jade Vega #1 of the CSU Fullerton Titans collides with Cydnee Kinslow #1 of the Long Beach State 49ers as the battle for a loose ball during their first round game in the Big West Women’s Tournament at UCI’s Bren Events Center in Irvine on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Long Beach State defeated Cal State Fullerton 60-54. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Long Beach State 49ers head coach Jeff Cammon on the sidelines during their first round game against CSU Fullerton in the Big West Women’s Tournament at UCI’s Bren Events Center in Irvine on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Long Beach State defeated Cal State Fullerton 60-54. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Cydnee Kinslow #1 of the Long Beach State 49ers grabs a rebound in front of Daeja Smith #32 of the CSU Fullerton Titans during their first round game in the Big West Women’s Tournament at UCI’s Bren Events Center in Irvine on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Long Beach State defeated Cal State Fullerton 60-54. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Shanaijah Davison #21 of the Long Beach State 49ers scores past Raina Perez #2 of the CSU Fullerton Titans during their first round game in the Big West Women’s Tournament at UCI’s Bren Events Center in Irvine on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Long Beach State defeated Cal State Fullerton 60-54. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Cal State Fullerton head coach Jeff Harada talks to his players during a timeout during their first round game against Long Beach State in the Big West Women’s Tournament at UCI’s Bren Events Center in Irvine on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Long Beach State defeated Cal State Fullerton 60-54. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Cal State Fullerton cheerleaders support their team during their first round game against Long Beach State in the Big West Women’s Tournament at UCI’s Bren Events Center in Irvine on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Long Beach State defeated Cal State Fullerton 60-54. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Cal State Fullerton head coach Jeff Harada on the sidelines during their first round game against Long Beach State in the Big West Women’s Tournament at UCI’s Bren Events Center in Irvine on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Long Beach State defeated Cal State Fullerton 60-54. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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IRVINE — The Long Beach State women’s basketball team had lost six of its last seven games coming into Tuesday night’s Big West Tournament opener at the Bren Center, but like a viral moment, they were “trending.”

The seventh-seeded 49ers, a senior-less team that gives most of its playing time to freshmen and sophomores, stepped up with one of their best games of the season, upsetting sixth-seeded Cal State Fullerton 60-54 and moving on to a quarterfinal game against No. 3 seed UC Riverside (16-14) on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at UCI.

Sophomore Shanaijah Davison scored 21 points, freshman Kianna Hamilton-Fisher added a career-high 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting plus six rebounds, and Naomi Hunt had 15 points as the 49ers improved to 9-21 overall. Fullerton, which boasted 6-foot-3 center Daeja Smith and a team of upperclassmen, finished 14-16.

“I’m very proud of the way we played,” 49ers coach Jeff Cammon said. “We’ve had a tendency this season of having our energy dip when the other teams go on runs, but tonight was a 40-minute effort. We out-scrapped them.

“It’s a huge win when you’re putting the ball in the hands of a freshman at the point (Justina King), and when you’re asking a sophomore like Naomi (Hunt) to guard an all-league player like Daeja.”

The Titans had a 9-0 run in the first quarter but the 49ers battled back to trail by two and eventually cut the margin to one point by halftime. The 49ers gained confidence in the third quarter, hitting 7 of 14 shots.

The game turned hard in the fourth when Long Beach started throwing a variety of zone defenses at the Titans, allowing Hunt to handle Smith one-on-one and pressuring the Titans offense as they looked for shots on the edge.

“We did a little bit of everything,” Cammon said. “I thought they were getting a little comfortable, so we went to some match-up zones and a 2-3 looking to take them out of their rhythm.”

Fullerton coach Jeff Harada said his team left 20 points on the court by missing short follow-up shots and also going 7 for 14 from the free-throw line.

“You have to give credit to Long Beach, they played better and made more plays,” he said. “They had a lot of players hit shots tonight who hadn’t been their best shooters this season. These were the players we wanted to shoot, and tonight they made them.”

Hamilton-Fisher was around the ball a lot working out of the high post. She came into the game averaging just 4.4 points but dominated the game by getting herself into position.

“We’re a young team, but we’ve played a lot of games together,” she said. “It was just a matter of being aggressive and keeping the energy high.”

Long Beach’s 12-3 run to start the fourth quarter was a team conquest. Davison scored twice in transition and Hunt dropped in two short jumpers from the lane sandwiched around a baseline 3-pointer by Hamilton-Fisher. That pushed the lead to 55-44 with four minutes left.

Hunt scored inside during a Fullerton run to close to within 55-50, but the 49ers made five free throws down the stretch. Forwards Cydnee Kinslow and Lauren Green combined for 16 rebounds, and freshman King had eight assists.

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UC Irvine’s Russell Turner, Jonathan Galloway, Elston Jones receive Big West Conference awards

UC Irvine men’s basketball coach Russell Turner was named Big West Conference Coach of the Year for the third time in the past six seasons on Monday, while a pair of UCI players also earned top awards when all-conference honors were announced.

Turner, who previously won in 2013-14 and 2016-17, led the Anteaters to their fourth Big West regular-season title in the past six seasons and the best regular-season (27-5) and Big West records (15-1) in program history.

Turner, the second-winningest coach in program history with a 184-127 career record, has his team on a 13-game winning streak going into this week’s Big West Tournament at Honda Center. The top-seeded Anteaters meet No. 8 seed UC Riverside in a first-round game on Thursday at 6 p.m.

Jonathan Galloway made history by being named the Big West Defensive Player of the Year for the third consecutive season, something no player had done before. UCI players have earned the defensive honor four years in a row and six times in the last seven years.

For the first time in his career, Galloway also was named to the all-conference first team. Galloway, who earlier this month became UCI’s leader in career rebounds, anchors an Anteaters defense that ranks fifth nationally in field goal percentage defense (.380) and 22nd in scoring defense (63.8 ppg).

Senior Elston Jones is the first UCI player to earn the Best Sixth Player award. Jones leads the Anteaters with 1.6 blocked shots per game and ranks second in the conference in blocks and fourth in rebounds per game (7.0). He averages 5.8 points but had three double-doubles this season and a career-high 14 points against UC Riverside on Jan. 26.

Cal State Fullerton senior guard Kyle Allman Jr. received first-team honors for the second consecutive season. The Brooklyn product finished the regular season as the No. 4 scorer in the conference (17.8 ppg) and has scored in double figures in all but two games this season including 20-plus on 10 occasions and 30-plus four times. He is second on the team in assists as well.

Long Beach State senior Deishuan Booker was the area’s other first-team selection, becoming the sixth 49ers point guard to receive the honor over the last nine seasons. During conference play, Booker led the 49ers with 23.3 points per game, second in the Big West, while adding 4.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds. He shot 35.8 percent from 3-point range and was a staggering 153 for 165 from the free-throw line (92.7 percent). The nation’s leader in free throws made, he goes into the Big West Tournament having made 46 consecutive free throws.

The Cal State Northridge duo of freshman Lamine Diane and sophomore Terrell Gomez rounded out the first team, and Diane made history by becoming the first player ever to win Big West Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year and Freshman of the Year in the same season.

Originally from Dakar, Senegal, the 6-foot-7 Diane broke the Matadors’ single-season records for points (769), rebounds (344), field goals made (321), blocked shots (66) and double-doubles (19) while leading the Big West in points per game (24.8), rebounds per game (11.1) and blocks per game (2.1). Diane tied a CSUN Division I single-game record by scoring 39 points against Fullerton on Jan. 31. He led the nation in field goals made during the regular season and finished seventh in the nation in points and rebounds per game.

Last season’s Big West Freshman of the Year, Gomez enjoyed an outstanding sophomore season. He finished second in the Big West in points per game (19.2) and free-throw percentage (87.5) and led the league in 3-point field goals made (111) and minutes per game (37.8).

UCI guard Max Hazzard and Cal State Fullerton guard Khalil Ahmad were named to the All-Big West second team, while UCI juniors Tommy Rutherford and Evan Leonard, Fullerton forward Jackson Rowe and Long Beach State seniors Mason Riggins and Bryan Alberts all received honorable mention accolades.

Ahmad, the 2015 Big West Freshman of the Year, is one of just five players in program history to earn all-conference honors three or more times during their careers and he’s the first to do so since Bobby Brown (2004-07).

Read more about UC Irvine’s Russell Turner, Jonathan Galloway, Elston Jones receive Big West Conference awards This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

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Cal State Fullerton relay team advances to NCAA Championships, earns honorable mention All-America honors

Cal State Fullerton track and field’s men’s 4×100-meter relay team, competing May 26 at the NCAA Division I West Preliminaries at Sacramento State, advanced to the NCAA Championships this week in Eugene, Ore.

  • Marcel Espinoza competes in May at the NCAA Division I West Preliminary competition in Sacramento.
Photo courtesy Kirby Lee/Cal State Fullerton Athletics

    Marcel Espinoza competes in May at the NCAA Division I West Preliminary competition in Sacramento.
    Photo courtesy Kirby Lee/Cal State Fullerton Athletics

  • Thaddeus Smith competes in March
Photo courtesy Matt Brown/Cal State Fullerton Athletics

    Thaddeus Smith competes in March
    Photo courtesy Matt Brown/Cal State Fullerton Athletics

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  • Rasaun House competes in March.
Photo courtesy Matt Brown/Cal State Fullerton Athletics

    Rasaun House competes in March.
    Photo courtesy Matt Brown/Cal State Fullerton Athletics

  • Luis Matos competes at the Big West Track championships in Northridge in May.
Photo courtesy Matt Brown/Cal State Fullerton Athletics.

    Luis Matos competes at the Big West Track championships in Northridge in May.
    Photo courtesy Matt Brown/Cal State Fullerton Athletics.

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The quartet of Rasaun House, Thaddeus Smith, Luis Matos and Marcel Espinoza clocked a school-record time of 39.86 to earn third place in heat one and 10th place overall to automatically qualify for the semifinal round in Eugene. The previous school record was 40.10 and set in 2016.

It is the first time since 2003 that the Titans have sent a men’s 4×100-meter relay team to the NCAA Championships.

“The guys just ran phenomenal,” head coach John Elders said. “It was the first time we had a relay go under 40 seconds in school history and we actually were in first after the first two exchanges and really put the pressure on the other teams. So proud of these guys. We’re going to the show!”

In Eugene on Wednesday, the team earned honorable mention All-America honors.

The quartet of Luis Matos, Thaddeus Smith, Rasaun House and Marcel Espinoza clocked a time of 40.10 in the men’s 4×100-meter relay to take 21st place overall and earn honorable All-America accolades. That was the second-fastest time of the year for the squad. #TusksUp

— Titan Track & Field (@FullertonTFXC) June 7, 2018

Source: Cal State Fullerton

Read more about Cal State Fullerton relay team advances to NCAA Championships, earns honorable mention All-America honors This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

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Cal State Fullerton baseball fans back home gather to watch Stanford regionals

Cal State Fullerton students, alums and other fans gathered Friday, June 1, at two venues in Fullerton to watch the baseball team take on Big 12 champ Baylor in the NCAA tournament Stanford regional.

The Big West Conference champion Titans defeated Baylor 6-2 and beat Stanford 2-1 on Saturday. Cal State Fullerton plays again Sunday against the winner of the Baylor-Stanford elimination game.

  • Cal State Fullerton baseball fans cheer for the team after pitcher Colton Eastman retires the side against Baylor during a viewing party at BIGS in Fullerton on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

    Cal State Fullerton baseball fans cheer for the team after pitcher Colton Eastman retires the side against Baylor during a viewing party at BIGS in Fullerton on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

  • A Cal State Fullerton fan cheers for the team playing against Baylor during a viewing party at BIGS in Fullerton on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

    A Cal State Fullerton fan cheers for the team playing against Baylor during a viewing party at BIGS in Fullerton on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

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  • Cal State Fullerton baseball fans watch the team take on Baylor at Stanford during a viewing party at BIGS in Fullerton on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

    Cal State Fullerton baseball fans watch the team take on Baylor at Stanford during a viewing party at BIGS in Fullerton on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

  • Cal State Fullerton baseball fans watch the team take on Baylor at Stanford during a viewing party at BIGS in Fullerton on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

    Cal State Fullerton baseball fans watch the team take on Baylor at Stanford during a viewing party at BIGS in Fullerton on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

  • Cal State Fullerton baseball fans watch the team take on Baylor at Stanford during a viewing party at BIGS in Fullerton on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

    Cal State Fullerton baseball fans watch the team take on Baylor at Stanford during a viewing party at BIGS in Fullerton on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

  • Cal State Fullerton baseball fan Tommy Falvai celebrates after Brett Borgogno hits a two-run double in the team’s game against Baylor on Friday afternoon at Stanford. Fans gathered for a viewing party at BIGS in Fullerton on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

    Cal State Fullerton baseball fan Tommy Falvai celebrates after Brett Borgogno hits a two-run double in the team’s game against Baylor on Friday afternoon at Stanford. Fans gathered for a viewing party at BIGS in Fullerton on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

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