FULLERTON, Calif. – The Cal State Fullerton men's basketball team out-shot Hawai'i and boasted five double-figure scorers including a double-double from Lionheart Leslie, but it wasn't enough to overcome 29 fouls and 18 turnovers as the Titans' upset bid against the top team in the Big West Conference fell short, 86-79, in overtime.
"I thought our kids battled," Cal State Fullerton head coach Dedrique Taylor said. "They did a good job of showing that we're capable of more than what we've done in the past."
The Titans (8-8, 1-2 BWC) showed their capabilities by out-shooting the Warriors (15-2, 4-0 BWC) 45.8 percent to 43.3 percent from the field. However, Hawai'i held the edge in rebounding (34-29), assists (17-8), steals (10-6) and second chance points (10-4) as well as free throw shooting (86.2 percent to 79.5 percent) which proved to be the difference as 12 of the Warriors' 14 points in the overtime frame were off of free throws.
Freshman guard Khalil Ahmad led the Titans offensively with 19 points to set the tone for five double-figure scorers. He also grabbed three steals to lead the squad. Leslie added a career-high 17 points to go along with a career-best 10 rebounds to register his first double-double as a Titan.
Tre' Coggins and Kyle Allman Jr., each added 13 points in the game. The 13 points marked a new career-best for Allman Jr. Rounding out the double-figure scorers for the Titans was Jamar Akoh who turned in an 11-point effort. He also added six boards and three assists.
The Warriors had a pair of 20-point scorers in Isaac Fleming (23 points) and Stefan Jankovic (21 points). Roderick Bobbitt also contributed 14 points for Hawai'i to go along with a game-high six assists and three steals.
The first half was a close, back and forth affair as the Titans and Warriors fought each other through five ties and three lead changes. Fullerton started the game with a 6-0 lead, but it didn't take long for Hawai'i to turn the tables and take a 13-10 lead by the second media timeout. The two teams battled each other throughout the frame and the Warriors took a two-point lead (29-27) into the locker room at halftime.
The Titans out-shot the Warriors in all categories during the first 20 minutes. Allman Jr., led all scorers with eight points at halftime after going 2-for-2 from the field, 1-for-1 from three-point range and 3-for-4 from the free throw line.
By halftime, Leslie had already set a new career-high with six rebounds to go along with five points. Leslie would finish the game marking the Titans' third double-double of the year.
Fullerton opened the second half with a jumper from Ahmad to tie the game for the sixth time, however the two teams would trade leads a total of 11 times with 12 ties by the night's end.
Throughout the second half, the Titans and Warriors were in a fierce battle for the lead. Neither team held more than a two-possession advantage during regulation.
Each time the Titans took what looked to be the final lead of the game, the Warriors would counter. With just 26 seconds left to play, Leslie sunk both free throws to give Fullerton a four-point lead (71-67). Hawai'i's Sai Tummala would make a pair of his own free throws to pull within two (71-69) with just 15 seconds remaining. Kennedy Esume hit the back end of a pair of free throws to give Fullerton back a three-point lead, but Jankovic drained a three-pointer at the 10-second mark to even the score at 72-72 and force overtime.
In the five-minute overtime period, Cal State Fullerton committed six fouls and Hawaii converted on all 12 of its free throws to outscore the Titans 14-7 in the frame. Despite the Titans' efforts, the Warriors won the game 86-79 to push their winning streak to seven and remain undefeated in conference action.
Cal State Fullerton looks to turn things around Wednesday, Jan. 20, at UC Irvine. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. The contest will be televised live on Fox Sports Prime Ticket.