Whicker: Cal State Fullerton’s seniority vs. UC Irvine’s gaudy record in Big West final

  • Cal State Fullerton forward Josh Pitts, right, shows his excitement as guard Jamal Smith draws a foul and scored a basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against UC Santa Barbara at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • UC Santa Barbara guard Max Heidegger, left, tries to drive toward the basket as Cal State Fullerton guard Kyle Allman Jr. defends during the first half of Friday’s Big West Tournament semifinal at Honda Center. Allman came up with several big defensive plays in the final minutes of the Titans’ 64-58 victory. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

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  • UC Santa Barbara guard Ar’Mond Davis, left, goes up for a basket under as Cal State Fullerton forward Jackson Rowe defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Cal State Fullerton guard Kyle Allman Jr. slams a dunk during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against UC Santa Barbara at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Cal State Fullerton guard Khalil Ahmad celebrates after defeating UC Santa Barbara in an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Cal State Fullerton head coach Dedrique Taylor gives instructions to his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against UC Santa Barbara at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Cal State Fullerton guard Khalil Ahmad, top, shoots over UC Santa Barbara forward Jarriesse Blackmon during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Cal State Fullerton guard Kyle Allman Jr., center, drives hard around UC Santa Barbara forward Jarriesse Blackmon, left, to put up a shot for the score late in the second half of the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Cal State Fullerton guard Kyle Allman Jr., right, blocks the shot by UC Santa Barbara guard JaQuori McLaughlin during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Cal State Fullerton guard Jamal Smith celebrates after defeating UC Santa Barbara in an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • UC Santa Barbara guard Max Heidegger, right, runs into Cal State Fullerton guard Landon Kirkwood and loses his footing in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Cal State Fullerton guard Landon Kirkwood, center, scores a basket around UC Santa Barbara forward Jarriesse Blackmon, right, in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Cal State Fullerton guard Kyle Allman Jr., right, blocks a shot in the lane by UC Santa Barbara guard JaQuori McLaughlin to maintain the Titans’ lead during the final minutes of their Big West Tournament semifinal on Friday night at Honda Center. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • As UC Santa Barbara guard Ar’Mond Davis, left, reacts after the Gauchos turned over the ball to Cal State Fullerton, guard Landon Kirkwood, center, and forward Jackson Rowe, right, do a little celebrating in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • UC Santa Barbara head coach Joe Pasternack yells instructions to his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Cal State Fullerton at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • UC Santa Barbara guard Max Heidegger, left, and Cal State Fullerton guard Kyle Allman Jr., right, wait for the ball to come down for the rebound in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Cal State Fullerton forward Johnny Wang reaches to control the rebound against Santa Barbara in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Cal State Fullerton forward Davon Clare, center, moves toward the basket between UC Santa Barbara forward Robinson Idehen, left, and forward Jarriesse Blackmon, right, in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Cal State Fullerton guard Landon Kirkwood, right, scoops top a loose ball in front of UC Santa Barbara guard Sekou Toure in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • UC Santa Barbara forward Amadou Sow hangs from the rim after a dunk, as Cal State Fullerton forward Josh Pitts, left, and forward Jackson Rowe stand nearby during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • UC Santa Barbara guard JaQuori McLaughlin, right, shoots over Cal State Fullerton forward Jackson Rowe during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • UC Santa Barbara forward Amadou Sow, left, shoots over Cal State Fullerton forward Johnny Wang during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Cal State Fullerton guard Khalil Ahmad dunks with two seconds left for the final points of his team’s 64-58 victory over UC Santa Barbara in Friday’s Big West Tournament semifinal at Honda Center. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Cal State Fullerton forward Johnny Wang, left, lets out a yell after the Titans scored to extend their lead over UC Santa Barbara with minutes left in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Cal State Fullerton guard Landon Kirkwood, left, and guard Austen Awosika, right, celebrate the Titans’ win over UC Santa Barbara in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Cal State Fullerton guard Khalil Ahmad is being congratulated by the fans after defeating UC Santa Barbara in an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • UC Irvine guard Robert Cartwright grabs the rebound in front of Long Beach State center Temidayo Yussuf, center, as UC Irvine forward Elston Jones, left, reaches in during the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Long Beach State guard Deishuan Booker, right, goes up to the basket as UC Irvine forward Tommy Rutherford defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Long Beach State forward Mason Riggins, left, shoots in front of UC Irvine forward Elston Jones during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • UC Irvine guard Evan Leonard, right, tries to block the shot by Long Beach State guard Drew Cobb during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • UC Irvine guard Evan Leonard, center, goes up for a dunk next to Long Beach State guard Deishuan Booker, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • UC Irvine coach Russell Turner, center, reacts after a foul was called on the team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Long Beach State at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • UC Irvine forward Collin Welp, right, is fouled by Long Beach State forward KJ Byers during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • UC Irvine forward JC Butler, left, goes up to the basket as Long Beach State forward Mason Riggins defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • UC Irvine guard Robert Cartwright, center, drives through traffic to score in front of Long Beach State guard Deishuan Booker, right, during the second half of their Big West Tournament semifinal on Friday night at Honda Center. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • UC Irvine guard Robert Cartwright, right, steals the ball from Long Beach State guard Deishuan Booker during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Long Beach State forward Mason Riggins, back, tries to steal the ball from UC Irvine forward Tommy Rutherford during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • UC Irvine guard Max Hazzard, right, shoots over Long Beach State forward Mason Riggins during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Long Beach State guard Deishuan Booker, center, shoots between UC Irvine guard Robert Cartwright, left, and forward Tommy Rutherford during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Long Beach State guard Drew Cobb can only watch as UC Irvine forward JC Butler controls the loose ball in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Long Beach State guard Drew Cobb, right, and UC Irvine forward JC Butler go after a loose ball in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • UC Irvine forward JC Butler, Long Beach State guard Drew Cobb and Long Beach State guard Deishuan Booker, from left, go after a loose ball in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • UC Irvine forward Elston Jones, right, keeps the ball away from Long Beach State forward Mason Riggins, left, and another Long Beach State player in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • UC Irvine forward Tommy Rutherford, center, muscles his way past Long Beach State forward KJ Byers, left, and forward Mason Riggins, right, to score a basket in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Long Beach State center Temidayo Yussuf, right, protects a rebound from UC Irvine forward Tommy Rutherford in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • UC Irvine forward Jonathan Galloway, center, gets to the rebound before Long Beach State forward Mason Riggins, left, and guard Deishuan Booker, right, in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • UC Irvine forward Jonathan Galloway gestures after scoring during the second half of the team’s NCAA college basketball game against Long Beach State at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • UC Irvine forward Tommy Rutherford, left, tries to block a shot by Long Beach State guard Deishuan Booker in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • UC Irvine players cheer their team on as they score another basket with seconds left in their Big West Tournament semifinal victory over rival Long Beach State on Friday night at Honda Center. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Long Beach State forward Mason Riggins, left, wipes his face with a towel as the team plays the final minutes of an NCAA college basketball game against UC Irvine at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. UC Irvine won 75-67. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

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ANAHEIM — As a freshman, Kyle Allman Jr. averaged 5.3 points. Khalil Ahmad averaged 14.3. Jamal Smith averaged as many calories as he could amass, as a redshirt.

Dedrique Taylor, Cal State Fullerton’s coach, was in his third year, but it seemed like every minute was a do-over, a disheartening trip back to the starting blocks. He won 10 games in that 2015-16 season, giving him a total of 30 and an average of 10.

On Friday night at Honda Center, the Titans put together a 24-10 run, caught and passed UC Santa Barbara, and won their fifth consecutive Big West Tournament game 64-58.

On Saturday night they play UC Irvine, the top seed, in hopes of a second consecutive title.

“I looked out there and I saw guys that looked nothing they did back then,” Taylor said. “Back then they didn’t have facial hair, they were uglier than ever. Now they’re muscular, they’re physically mature, and you have to credit their experience, their belief. I think tonight we managed to impose our will.”

The third-seeded Titans squared their record at 16-16 thanks to smothering defense at the end. Second-seeded UCSB missed its final 10 field-goal attempts and didn’t have a basket in the last 7:07.

Allman blocked his 11th and 12th shots of the season, Jackson Rowe added another rejection, and Smith was the point of the spear, taking charges, making steals and influencing a game while only taking (and making) one shot.

The Titans are embracing seniors like Allman, Smith and Ahmad because they’ll have to let go of them, whenever this team loses.

“They’ve changed the face of this basketball program,” Taylor said.

“We talked last night about how we know we’ve only got a couple of games left together,” Ahmad said, “and we don’t want it to end soon.”

Ahmad has 60 points in these two tournament games and 1,714 overall. Allman, the all-time CSF leader in games played, has 1,617 points.

And Taylor shook his head when someone cited the accumulated minutes. Ahmad played 39 Friday, 43 in Thursday’s overtime win over UC Davis. Allman played 40 Friday, 43 Saturday.

“If I was out there playing, I might be concerned about minutes,” Taylor said. “These guys are 21, 22 years old. It’s go time.”

UCI beat Fullerton by seven at home and by 17 on the road this season, but in last year’s final the Titans dominated 71-55.

This UCI team (29-5) is plus-7.5 in rebounds-per-game, which might be the main reason it has a 15-game winning streak and is on the cusp of becoming the first 30-game winner in the Big West since UNLV’s 34-1 NCAA semifinal loser in 1991.

It was the proximate cause of its 75-67 semifinal win over a Long Beach State team that came in with six consecutive victories and the only Big West win over the Anteaters all season.

UCI won the boards 21-11 in the second half, which led to a 16-4 edge, overall, in second-chance points. Once the Anteaters decided to drive the ball on a night when they went 2 for 12 from deep, the formula kicked in.

But it is really hatched on the Bren Center floor, every other day in practice, when Coach Russell Turner calls for the 2-on-2 rebounding drill.

“Two big guys, two little guys, all of them blocking each other out,” Turner said. “No out of bounds, no fouls.”

“Love that drill,” guard Robert Cartwright said, rolling his eyes.

“And we got a lot of big guys,” guard Evan Leonard said, smiling wearily.

“A lot of Hall of Fame coaches have used it, it’s been around a long time,” Turner said. “I love it. It’s a chance for us to embrace our physicality.”

Jonathan Galloway, Tommy Rutherford and Elston Jones swallowed up 19 of those rebounds, and the Anteaters physicaled their way to a 48-34 second half. They also managed to get through the 49ers’ press, replacing their turnovers with 2-on-1 breaks and dunks. But it was a nervous night for the Anteaters, who trailed by seven early in the second half and, at times, were exhibiting the thousand-yard-stare of a favorite on the defensive.

Cartwright’s career-high 17-point night, built mostly on drives, solved much of that. But the Anteaters could have used the quickness and playmaking of Eyassu Worku, who missed the game with a leg injury.

“He’s playing tomorrow night,” Turner said. “We didn’t want him to play back to back. And I wanted to make sure he played in the final. So it was a gamble that could have easily not paid off, not playing him tonight.

“His speed and decision-making ability are critical. He gives us another speed handler. And not having him also takes away an opportunity to give our guys some rest. We played Rob (Cartwright) 35 minutes. He’s got great natural energy, and he wasn’t just settling for jump shots tonight. I’m of the opinion he can handle those minutes, plus whatever we can get out of it tomorrow.”

He was referring to Saturday, the first time that one of these days won’t have a tomorrow.

—- BIG WEST TOURNAMENT —-

No. 1 seed UC IRVINE (29-5) vs. No. 3 Cal State Fullerton (16-16)

Championship game

When: Saturday, 9 p.m.

Where: Honda Center

TV: ESPN2

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Cal State Fullerton rallies to beat UCSB, sets up Big West title game against UC Irvine

  • Cal State Fullerton guard Kyle Allman Jr., right, blocks a shot by UC Santa Barbara guard JaQuori McLaughlin to maintain the Titans’ lead with minutes left in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Cal State Fullerton forward Davon Clare, center, moves toward the basket between UC Santa Barbara forward Robinson Idehen, left, and forward Jarriesse Blackmon, right, in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

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  • UC Santa Barbara guard Ar’Mond Davis, left, goes up for a basket under as Cal State Fullerton forward Jackson Rowe defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Cal State Fullerton guard Landon Kirkwood, right, scoops top a loose ball in front of UC Santa Barbara guard Sekou Toure in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • UC Santa Barbara forward Amadou Sow, left, shoots over Cal State Fullerton forward Johnny Wang during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • UC Santa Barbara guard JaQuori McLaughlin, right, shoots over Cal State Fullerton forward Jackson Rowe during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • UC Santa Barbara forward Amadou Sow hangs from the rim after a dunk, as Cal State Fullerton forward Josh Pitts, left, and forward Jackson Rowe stand nearby during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Cal State Fullerton forward Johnny Wang reaches to control the rebound against Santa Barbara in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • UC Santa Barbara guard Max Heidegger, left, and Cal State Fullerton guard Kyle Allman Jr., right, wait for the ball to come down for the rebound in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • UC Santa Barbara guard Max Heidegger, left, tries to drive toward the basket as Cal State Fullerton guard Kyle Allman Jr. defends during the first half of Friday’s Big West Tournament semifinal at Honda Center. Allman came up with several big defensive plays in the final minutes of the Titans’ 64-58 victory. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Cal State Fullerton guard Khalil Ahmad dunks with two seconds left for the final points of his team’s 64-58 victory over UC Santa Barbara in Friday’s Big West Tournament semifinal at Honda Center. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Cal State Fullerton guard Landon Kirkwood, left, and guard Austen Awosika, right, celebrate the Titans’ win over UC Santa Barbara in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • As UC Santa Barbara guard Ar’Mond Davis, left, reacts after the Gauchos turned over the ball to Cal State Fullerton, guard Landon Kirkwood, center, and forward Jackson Rowe, right, do a little celebrating in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Cal State Fullerton guard Kyle Allman Jr., center, drives hard around UC Santa Barbara forward Jarriesse Blackmon, left, to put up a shot for the score late in the second half of the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Cal State Fullerton guard Landon Kirkwood, center, scores a basket around UC Santa Barbara forward Jarriesse Blackmon, right, in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • UC Santa Barbara guard Max Heidegger, right, runs into Cal State Fullerton guard Landon Kirkwood and loses his footing in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • UC Santa Barbara head coach Joe Pasternack yells instructions to his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Cal State Fullerton at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Cal State Fullerton guard Kyle Allman Jr., right, blocks the shot by UC Santa Barbara guard JaQuori McLaughlin during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Cal State Fullerton guard Jamal Smith celebrates after defeating UC Santa Barbara in an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Cal State Fullerton forward Johnny Wang, left, lets out a yell after the Titans scored to extend their lead over UC Santa Barbara with minutes left in the semifinal of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Cal State Fullerton guard Khalil Ahmad, top, shoots over UC Santa Barbara forward Jarriesse Blackmon during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Cal State Fullerton head coach Dedrique Taylor gives instructions to his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against UC Santa Barbara at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Cal State Fullerton guard Khalil Ahmad celebrates after defeating UC Santa Barbara in an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Cal State Fullerton guard Kyle Allman Jr. slams a dunk during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against UC Santa Barbara at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Cal State Fullerton forward Josh Pitts, right, shows his excitement as guard Jamal Smith draws a foul and scored a basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against UC Santa Barbara at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Cal State Fullerton guard Khalil Ahmad is being congratulated by the fans after defeating UC Santa Barbara in an NCAA college basketball game at the Big West men’s tournament in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

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ANAHEIM — The all-Orange County rematch is on.

Third-seeded Cal State Fullerton came through with clutch defense to hold second-seeded UC Santa Barbara without a field goal in the final seven minutes of a 64-58 win in the Big West Tournament semifinals on Friday night.

The Titans’ win sets up a rematch of last year’s championship game against top-seeded UC Irvine, which defeated Long Beach State in Friday’s first semifinal. Fullerton won last year’s title game 71-55.

The Titans (16-16) trailed for much of the second half on Friday, but they went on a 7-0 run, capped by a Davon Clare floater, to tie the score with three minutes left.

Then Kyle Allman Jr. delivered one of the defensive plays of the game, blocking a Jay Nagle 3-point attempt. On the ensuing offensive possession, Khalil Ahmad, who finished with a game-high 28 points, drove to the rim and drew a goaltending call, giving Fullerton a two-point lead with 1:11 left.

UCSB (22-10) called a timeout and seemed to get a good look at the basket, but Allman again arrived in the nick of time for the Titans. He swatted Jaquori McLaughlin’s driving layup attempt out of bounds. McLaughlin got another try, but Jackson Rowe appeared for a violent block off the backboard.

“I think this group of guys, they believe,” Fullerton head coach Dedrique Taylor said. “They know what they’re capable of and down the stretch, they started to galvanize each other. We just swarmed them. We had some really crucial blocks at the front of the rim there. But our group of guys, we didn’t want to go home.”

Fullerton had to play the free-throw game after that. The Titans made enough of them and the defense was stout enough to hold on until Ahmad’s breakaway dunk clinched the win with two seconds left.

The two teams were evenly matched in the first half, fitting considering they finished tied for second in the Big West during the regular season. Both shot the ball around 45 percent from the floor and struggled from 3-point range. UCSB had a one-rebound advantage, and neither team allowed the other to get into the bonus.

The lone differences were that UCSB made three free throws and Fullerton never got to the line, and the Titans turned the ball over eight times to the Gauchos’ five. The result was a three-point UCSB lead at halftime.

But then UCSB’s cold shooting changed in the second half. The Gauchos made four of their next five attempts from 3-point range to open a 10-point lead.

But in the end, Fullerton’s defense responded when it needed to put the Titans a win away from a return trip to the NCAA Tournament.

But standing in the way is their in-county rival. UCI beat Fullerton twice in the regular season, the first time by 17 points and the second by seven.

“Cannot wait,” Ahmad said. “Cannot wait.”

“We know what happened in the regular season,” added Jamal Smith, whom Taylor lauded for stabilizing the team with his play in the second half. “That definitely didn’t slip our mind and we’re coming full-force. We’re more connected than ever.”

.@CSFCoachTaylor on tonight’s win. #TusksUp pic.twitter.com/Eq2TMJiuxD

— Titans Men’s Basketball (@FullertonMBB) March 16, 2019

Not done yet. @oh_snaap25 #TusksUp pic.twitter.com/PcxTOgnxzp

— Titans Men’s Basketball (@FullertonMBB) March 16, 2019

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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 drops Big West opener at Hawaii

HONOLULU — Khalil Ahmad had 24 points to lead four Cal State Fullerton players in double figures, but the Titans were outplayed after halftime, losing to Hawaii 79-68 in their Big West Conference opener on Wednesday night at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Sheriff Drammeh tied his career high with a season-high 23 points and Eddie Stansberry added 16 points for Hawaii (10-5, 1-0 Big West), which won its fourth consecutive game. Jack Purchase added 14 points and 11 rebounds and Brocke Stepteau had 10 points.

Fullerton (4-11, 0-1) led 34-31 at halftime, but the Rainbow Warriors outscored the Titans 48-34 after the intermission.

Kyle Allman Jr. added 14 points for Fullerton, which dropped to 1-10 on the road this season. Austen Awosika had 12 points and eight rebounds and Jackson Rowe had 10 points and eight rebounds for the Titans.

Fullerton returns home to face Big West favorite UC Irvine (12-4, 0-0) on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Titan Gym.

Beautiful spin and reverse from @dee_clare5. #TusksUp pic.twitter.com/UY4YWMFqPS

— Titans Men’s Basketball (@FullertonMBB) January 10, 2019

In other Big West openers on Wednesday …

Cal State Northridge 84, UC Riverside 83: Terrell Gomez scored a career-high 32 points, missed a pair of free throws with five seconds left in a one-point game but wrapped up a last-second miss and CSUN held on for a road win at Riverside.

Gomez shot 11 for 17 from the floor, including 6 for 9 from 3-point range, and had three steals. Lamine Diane added 21 points for CSUN (7-10, 1-0 Big West) with eight rebounds and seven assists. Rodney Henderson Jr. scored 16 with eight boards and two steals.

The Matadors trailed by seven at the half, but Diane cut the score to 42-40 with a layup and hit a free throw for a 48-47 lead with just under 15 minutes left. He then scored seven points, sparking an 11-2 run and CSUN held on for the last 10 minutes.

Dikymbe Martin scored 25 to lead UCR (6-11, 0-1) but missed a 3-point attempt as time was running out. Menno Dijkstra added 14 points.

UC Santa Barbara 65, Cal Poly 56: Devearl Ramsey scored 19 points and JaQuori McLaughlin added 17 as UCSB won at home. Ramsey was 6 of 14 from the field for the Gauchos (12-3, 1-0), and McLaughlin made four 3-pointers. Ar’Mond Davis had 11 points and seven rebounds.

McLaughlin opened the game with a pair of 3-pointers and Davis added a third as the Gauchos surged to a 13-7 start. Another McLaughlin 3-pointer helped extend the margin to 20-10 midway through the half and the Gauchos held on for a 35-27 lead at the break.

Cal Poly battled back to tie the score at 46-all with 9:49 left but could never grab the lead. UCSB  took off again as a Davis 3-pointer, a McLaughlin dunk and a Ramsey layup helped build the lead to 65-51 with 1:25 left.

Donovan Fields scored 19 points with eight assists for the Mustangs (4-10, 0-1) who have lost five of their last six.

Read more about Cal State Fullerton drops Big West opener at Hawaii This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed. SaddleBack Valley Shredding Service

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Cal State Fullerton drops Big West Conference opener at Hawaii

HONOLULU — Khalil Ahmad had 24 points to lead four Cal State Fullerton players in double figures, but the Titans were outplayed after halftime, losing to Hawaii 79-68 in their Big West Conference opener on Wednesday night at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Sheriff Drammeh tied his career high with a season-high 23 points and Eddie Stansberry added 16 points for Hawaii (10-5, 1-0 Big West), which won its fourth consecutive game. Jack Purchase added 14 points and 11 rebounds and Brocke Stepteau had 10 points.

Fullerton (4-11, 0-1) led 34-31 at halftime, but the Rainbow Warriors outscored the Titans 48-34 after the intermission.

Kyle Allman Jr. added 14 points for Fullerton, which dropped to 1-10 on the road this season. Austen Awosika had 12 points and eight rebounds and Jackson Rowe had 10 points and eight rebounds for the Titans.

Fullerton returns home to face Big West favorite UC Irvine (12-4, 0-0) on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Titan Gym.

Beautiful spin and reverse from @dee_clare5. #TusksUp pic.twitter.com/UY4YWMFqPS

— Titans Men’s Basketball (@FullertonMBB) January 10, 2019

In other Big West openers on Wednesday …

Cal State Northridge 84, UC Riverside 83: Terrell Gomez scored a career-high 32 points, missed a pair of free throws with five seconds left in a one-point game but wrapped up a last-second miss and CSUN held on for a road win at Riverside.

Gomez shot 11 for 17 from the floor, including 6 for 9 from 3-point range, and had three steals. Lamine Diane added 21 points for CSUN (7-10, 1-0 Big West) with eight rebounds and seven assists. Rodney Henderson Jr. scored 16 with eight boards and two steals.

The Matadors trailed by seven at the half, but Diane cut the score to 42-40 with a layup and hit a free throw for a 48-47 lead with just under 15 minutes left. He then scored seven points, sparking an 11-2 run and CSUN held on for the last 10 minutes.

Dikymbe Martin scored 25 to lead UCR (6-11, 0-1) but missed a 3-point attempt as time was running out. Menno Dijkstra added 14 points.

UC Santa Barbara 65, Cal Poly 56: Devearl Ramsey scored 19 points and JaQuori McLaughlin added 17 as UCSB won at home. Ramsey was 6 of 14 from the field for the Gauchos (12-3, 1-0), and McLaughlin made four 3-pointers. Ar’Mond Davis had 11 points and seven rebounds.

McLaughlin opened the game with a pair of 3-pointers and Davis added a third as the Gauchos surged to a 13-7 start. Another McLaughlin 3-pointer helped extend the margin to 20-10 midway through the half and the Gauchos held on for a 35-27 lead at the break.

Cal Poly battled back to tie the score at 46-all with 9:49 left but could never grab the lead. UCSB  took off again as a Davis 3-pointer, a McLaughlin dunk and a Ramsey layup helped build the lead to 65-51 with 1:25 left.

Donovan Fields scored 19 points with eight assists for the Mustangs (4-10, 0-1) who have lost five of their last six.

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