FULLERTON, Calif. – Michael Williams' last-second three-point attempt was off the mark, and Cal State Fullerton's comeback at UC Riverside fell just short in a 72-69 loss at SRC Arena on Thursday night.
The Titans (7-14, 2-5 Big West) erased a 16-point deficit in the game, and took their first, 63-62, with 4:21 left to play after an inside bucket from James Johnson, but Fullerton could not finish off the Highlanders (8-14, 3-5 Big West).
The Titans used a 7-0 run to take their first lead late in the game, but UCR responded knocking down two free throws while one of Chris Patton's game-high 12 rebounds led to a Taylor Johns' breakaway dunk that gave UCR a 66-63 edge with 1:46 remaining.
On Fullerton's next possession, Williams knocked down two freebies for the Titans, but Patton followed with an inside bucket for UCR.
Once again Fullerton looked to Williams, and the senior converted a three-point play after being fouled on a jump shot, to tie the game at 68-68 as 49 seconds remained.
UCR's Sam Finley then drove to the basket as his inside bucket put UCR back in the lead, 70-68. Alex Harris was fouled on Fullerton's following possession, but made only 1-of-2 at the line, forcing the Titans to foul Austin Quick.
Fullerton finished the game shooting 65.2 percent (15-of-23) from the free-throw line.
Quick knocked down both attempts at the charity stripe, as UCR led 72-69, leaving Fullerton 15 seconds to attempt a game-tying shot.
The Titans trailed by 14 at the half, but opened the second half on a 10-2 run as Marquis Horne and Williams buried three-pointers during the stretch, and Fullerton pulled within 43-37 with 16:39 to play.
Williams and Harris led Cal State Fullerton as each produced 20-point efforts. Harris knocked down four three-pointers matching a season high, while Williams recorded his sixth 20-point game of the year.
Five UCR players finished in double figures as Patton completed the game with a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds while dishing a game-high six assists. Johns added 13 points, seven boards and two blocks, while Finley poured in 13 points off the bench.
Steven Thornton finished the game with 12 points knocking down three treys, while Steven Jones added 12 points and four assists.
UC Riverside held a 41-27 advantage at the half after shooting 63.0 percent from the floor (17-of-27) in the first 20 minutes while knocking down 4-of-6 from long distance.
The Titans were also outrebounded 17-9 in the first half as Jones led UCR with 10 points and four assists while Thornton knocked down three three-pointers.
Fullerton was able to pull within 29-22 with 5:45 remaining in the first, but the Highlanders produced a 7-0 run – with all the scoring coming from Jones - to build their lead back to double digits.
UC Riverside held a 15-4 lead at the 15:26 mark of the first half, making six of its first nine attempts including a 3-of-3 effort from long distance.
The Titans will play their third straight game on the road Saturday at Cal State Northridge with tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m.
Notes: Cal State Fullerton has now lost six consecutive road games…the Titans suffered their first loss to the Highlanders since Feb. 5, 2011 and their first loss in Riverside since Feb. 26, 2009…Michael Williams has now scored in double figures for 21 straight games and has now scored at least 20 points in six games this season…Alex Harris matched a season high with four three-pointers and produced his fourth 20-point effort of the year…for the second time this season, Cal State Fullerton had two players score at least 20 points in a game...the Titans and Highlanders split their season series.