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)

  • Cal Poly’s
    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)

  • (Photo courtesy of the Big West Conference)

  • (Photo courtesy of the Big West Conference)

  • 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)

  • (Photo courtesy of the Big West Conference)

  • 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)

  • (Photo courtesy of the Big West Conference)

  • (Photo courtesy of the Big West Conference)

  • (Photo courtesy of the Big West Conference)

  • (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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Cal State Fullerton, UC Riverside basketball teams cancel Friday-Saturday series

The Big West Conference men’s basketball games between host Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside scheduled for Friday and Saturday have been canceled “out of an abundance of caution” due to COVID-19 protocol concerns, the schools announced Thursday evening.

At this time, there are no plans to reschedule the games, though some Big West teams have been able to reschedule matchups this season when two teams both have opponents forced to back out of games during the same week (as happened when Fullerton and Cal State Northridge quickly coordinated a two-game series last month).

No information was available on which program was dealing with a potential positive test, but neither team indicated they were beginning an immediate quarantine and both announced they expect to play their scheduled games next week.

Fullerton is next scheduled to play at Cal Poly (SLO) on Feb. 12-13, with both games scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. UCR is scheduled to host UC Irvine on Feb. 12-13, with the latter a 9 p.m. game to be broadcast nationally on ESPNU.

COVID-related scheduling issues have been a struggle nationwide since the college basketball season started in late November, and the Big West is no different. Teams have seen a number of games postponed or canceled and the conference has moved its men’s and women’s postseason basketball tournaments, played in Anaheim every year since 2001, to Las Vegas this March.

The tournaments will take place at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on March 9-13, in a bubble environment that will include daily COVID-19 screening and testing and will enable participants to walk from the hotel to the arena without outside contact.

While the basketball season has had its scheduling hurdles amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Big West last week announced return to play and scheduling protocols for several spring sports teams (baseball, softball, men’s volleyball and women’s water polo) to begin competing soon.

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Cal State Fullerton wins at Cal State Bakersfield, surviving frantic finish

BAKERSFIELD — Freshman guard Dante Maddox Jr. scored a season-high 22 points and junior guard Tray Maddox Jr. had 21 as Cal State Fullerton defeated Cal State Bakersfield, 90-84, on Friday night, surviving a late scare while earning an impressive Big West Conference road win.

Freshman point guard Latrell Wrightsell Jr. added a career-high 18 points for Fullerton (5-5 overall, 4-5 Big West), which got 86 of its points from five players. Senior forward Josh Hall added 14 points and nine rebounds, and sophomore guard Tory San Antonio had 11 points.

There were 14 ties and 19 lead changes in the nationally televised game, but both teams picked up the pace in the second half and that worked out for the Titans, who shot 63 percent from the floor after halftime.

With the score tied at 61 with 9:32 left, Fullerton went on a 21-10 run to open an 82-71 lead with 1:43 left. Fullerton still led by nine after a pair of Wrightsell free throws with 29 seconds left, but the hosts made one last push.

Travis Henson and Justin McCall combined for five points in seven seconds to help the Roadrunners (10-6, 6-3) trim the margin to 88-84, and they had a chance to cut the deficit to one possession after the Titans missed two free throws with 15 seconds left. Bakersfield’s Taze Moore got a clean look at the rim but San Antonio came up with a crucial block on his layup attempt. After securing the rebound, Dante Maddox scored his last two points at the free-throw line with eight seconds left to help secure the win.

Both teams set season-bests for scoring in the second half. Fullerton had 58 second-half points, while Bakersfield had 54.

Fullerton was outrebounded 31-23 but had a considerable advantage in free-throw attempts in a game that featured 47 personal fouls, going 27 for 37 (73 percent) at the line while Bakersfield was just 11 for 14. The Titans also tied a season-best with 11 3-pointers (on 20 attempts). Fullerton finished the night shooting 52 percent overall (26 for 50), while the Roadrunners were even better at 55.9 percent (33 for 59) overall. Bakersfield was 7 for 17 from beyond the arc.

Dante Maddox finished 4 for 7 from the field, going 3 for 5 from 3-point range and 11 for 14 from the free-throw line. Tray Maddox was 7 for 10 overall, including a 5-for-5 showing from distance. Wrightsell was 5 for 11 from the field and 7 for 7 at the free-throw line, playing 34 minutes without turning the ball over.

McCall scored a career-high 20 points to pace Bakersfield (10-6, 6-3). Moore added 16 points and seven rebounds, while Justin Edler-Davis had 14 points and Henson had 10.

The teams square off again on Saturday at 7 p.m., also at Bakersfield.

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Cal State Fullerton bounces back for series split with CSUN

A night after being scolded by Coach Dedrique Taylor for a lack of effort, the Cal State Fullerton men’s basketball team bounced back on Sunday with a complete-game victory over Cal State Northridge, 85-77, at Titan Gym.

The Titans lost the opener of the two-game Big West Conference series on Saturday night despite CSUN being without its two leading scorers, and Taylor lamented his team’s lack of intensity.

“They responded the right way and were really scrappy against a good team,” Taylor said following Sunday’s win. “We didn’t really talk about offense or defense before the game, just doing what we do in practice and playing hard.”

Sunday’s rematch was close throughout, but the Titans finally took control with a late run. Leading 68-67 with 4:48 left, they outscored the Matadors 13-6, Vincent Lee scoring seven points and Dante Maddox Jr. and Tory San Antonio hitting 3-pointers. That gave the Titans (3-4 overall, 2-4 Big West) an eight-point lead with 1:48 left and the Matadors couldn’t get closer than six points the rest of the way.

Lee led the team with a career-high 25 points on 10-for-13 shooting while grabbing 11 rebounds. Lance Spivey added 13 points off the bench, Maddox had 11 off the bench and San Antonio had 10.

“We did a good of finding Vincent inside,” Taylor said of the 6-foot-8 sophomore forward. “I think we can score enough, but we have to buy in to playing the right way. We know what Vincent can do. We have enough guys who can shoot and score inside, we just have to have more of an effort to playing hard.”

The Matadors (5-4, 1-1) were again without TJ Starks (18.1 ppg) and Lance Coleman (15.7 ppg), and the Titans put a wall around guard Brendan Harrick, who made seven 3-pointers on Saturday. Miles Brookins (6.3 ppg) also missed the game for CSUN.

Darius Brown scored 14 points with six rebounds and seven assists for CSUN. Vante Hendrix scored 14 and Atin Wright had 22 points off the bench.

“We played really hard but I think we’ve got to get a little smarter at times,” CSUN coach Mark Gottfried said. “We had some critical errors but our effort was there. We had some guys out and people stepped up. Atin stepped in there and had a phenomenal game, George (Nwogu) got a few minutes – he hadn’t played a whole lot.

“When Festus (Ndumanya) got in foul trouble that hurt us some. We’re still learning, we have to get better defensively, we have to get a little better at executing our offense and getting the right shot. There’s no way I could fault our effort, we just came up a little bit short.”

UP NEXT

Cal State Fullerton is scheduled to host Hawaii on Friday and Saturday, with both games at 3 p.m.

CSUN is scheduled to host UC Santa Barbara on Friday and Saturday, with both games at 4 p.m.

.@vincemikelee on the team win and his individual performance. #TusksUp pic.twitter.com/zwhcfIPKEA

— Titans Men’s Basketball (@FullertonMBB) January 18, 2021

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Cal State Fullerton can’t match UCSB’s balance in Big West opener

SANTA BARBARA — Junior guard Trey Maddox Jr. had a career-high 27 points, but it wasn’t nearly enough for Cal State Fullerton as UC Santa Barbara used a balanced attack and pulled away in the second half to defeat the Titans, 81-63, in a Big West Conference game on Friday night at the Thunderdome.

The Gauchos led by seven at halftime, then took control in the second half when Miles Norris punctuated a 13-2 run with a fast-break dunk that pushed the margin to 51-35 with 10:29 left. The Titans never got closer than 11 the rest of the way and the margin was extended to 21 in the final five minutes.

Maddox scored Fullerton’s first 10 points and finished 11 for 16 from the field, including a 5-for-8 mark from 3-point range, in 35 minutes. Sophomore Vincent Lee added 10 points on 5-for-9 shooting and grabbed four rebounds for the Titans (1-1 overall, 0-1 Big West), who were playing their first game since Dec. 13 because of a 14-day quarantine for COVID-19 test results. Senior Josh Hall had eight points and 10 rebounds.

Ajare Sanni led UCSB (5-3, 1-2) with 19 points (13 in the second half), four rebounds and five assists. He was 8 for 11 from the field, including 3 for 3 from 3-point range. JaQuori McLaughlin had 13 points and six assists, and Norris had 13 points and three blocked shots. Amadou Sow had 12 points on 6-for-8 shooting despite being limited to 17 minutes because of foul trouble. Robinson Idehen added seven points and nine rebounds.

Fullerton had 17 turnovers and just 10 assists. UCSB shot 53.1% overall, including 20 for 31 (64.5%) in the second half. The Gauchos, who dropped their first two Big West games at UC Irvine on Sunday and Monday, were an efficient 5 for 9 from 3-point range after halftime. UCSB had a season-high nine steals and just 12 turnovers to go with 22 assists.

The Titans and Gauchos play the second game of their two-game series on Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Thunderdome. The game can be streamed on ESPN3.

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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 gets big game from Johnny Wang in loss at Hawaii

HONOLULU — Junior forward Johnny Wang scored a career-high 21 points, but Cal State Fullerton fell behind by double-digits early in the second half and couldn’t erase the deficit in a 70-59 loss to Hawaii on Thursday night at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Fullerton (10-18 overall, 5-8 Big West Conference) trailed just 38-36 at halftime, but the Rainbow Warriors (16-11, 7-6 Big West) extended the margin to 46-36 less than four minutes into the second half, and the Titans never got closer than six the rest of the way.

Fullerton had 22 turnovers (14 before halftime), which Hawaii converted into 18 points, and was outscored by nine points at the free-throw line (22-13).

Fullerton shot 20 for 41 (49 percent) overall, including a 6-for-18 mark (33 percent) from 3-point range, but the Titans were just 13 for 22 at the foul line (59 percent). Hawaii, which swept the season series from the Titans, shot 43 percent (22 for 51), and just 4 for 13 from beyond the arc but converted 22 of 27 free-throw attempts.

Wang finished 7 for 9 from the field and 6 for 6 from the free-throw line and also grabbed five rebounds. Senior guard Brandon Kamga had 12 points (eight in the first half) and three rebounds but struggled with turnovers and fouled out in 36 minutes. Senior forward Jackson Rowe had 13 points and three rebounds. Sophomore guard Wayne Arnold contributed eight points off the bench, all in the first half.

Drew Buggs paced Hawaii with 20 points. He opened the second half with two free throws and hit a jumper at the 16:07 mark to give the hosts their 46-36 lead.

The Titans trimmed the margin to six again with five minutes to play, but a Buggs jumper made it an 11-point game, Justin Webster followed with a 3-pointer, then Zigmars Raimo added a layup to make it 64-48. Hawaii maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way.

Eddie Stansberry added 15 points for Hawaii and Weber had 10.

Fullerton next plays at Cal State Northridge on Saturday at 7 p.m., while Hawaii is home against UC Riverside the same night.

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Austen Awosika, Cal State Fullerton rout Cal State Stanislaus

FULLERTON — Senior guard Austen Awosika had a career-high 26 points and Cal State Fullerton rolled past Cal State Stanislaus 82-62 for a homecoming victory on Saturday night at Titan Gym.

Awosika, who shot 8 for 13 from the field and 9 for 11 from the foul line, added six rebounds and six assists. Awosika, whose previous high was 19 at St. Mary’s on Dec. 11, 2018, topped that with 20 in the first half.

Sophomore guard Wayne Arnold had 14 points (four 3-pointers), four rebounds and two assists for Fullerton (2-2), while senior guard Brandon Kamga added 12 points and nine rebounds and freshman guard Tory San Antonio had five points, eight rebounds, four steals and two assists.

Ty Davis had 16 points for the Warriors, an NCAA Division II program, and Darius Scott added eight points and seven rebounds.

The Titans led 42-34 at halftime before pulling away in the second half. They led 53-41 at the 14:38 mark when a 9-2 run extended the margin to 62-43.

Fullerton shot 50.8 percent (30 for 59) from the field and 80 percent (16 for 20) from the free-throw line. The Titans outrebounded the visitors 38-30 and assisted on 15 of their 30 baskets.

Fullerton does not play again until it hosts Hofstra next Sunday (Nov. 24) at 5 p.m.

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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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