ANAHEIM, Calif. – No. 4 seeded Cal State Fullerton men's basketball won the league tournament for the third time in program history on Saturday night by dismantling UC Irvine, 71-55. The Titans had hard-fought battles in the quarterfinal and semifinal but Saturday's final was never in doubt with the Titans leading for 36 minutes and 35 seconds.
It is the team's first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2008, when they also beat UC Irvine in the Big West Tournament final. And the only other time CSF played in the NCAA tournament was 40 years ago, in 1978 when the team won the PCAA and went to the "elite eight" of the NCAA Tournament.
Junior guards Kyle Allman, Jr. and Khalil Ahmad led the way with 26 points and 23 points, respectively. Allman was named Big West Tournament Most Valuable Player and the trio of Allman, Ahmad and sophomore forward Jackson Rowe were named to the All-Tournament team.
At the half, CSF led 29-25. In the first five minutes of the second half, Allman scored 10 points and over the course of the rest of the period, Ahmad scored 21 of his 23 points to effectively put the game away and give CSF the title.
After a being held to single-digit scoring on Friday night, Allman bounced back in a big way with 26 points (8-16 FGA, 4-6 3FGA, 6-8 FTA), six rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Rowe chipped in six points, five rebounds and a blocked shot and sophomore forward Davon Clare also had six points, a team-high seven rebounds, two assists, one steal and a block.
Credit to the team's primary ball handers in sophomore guards Austen Awosika and Jamal Smith who combined for five assists (Smith with 4) and zero turnovers. The team had a season-low five turnovers on the night and 11 assists. Per usual, Awosika had a team-high +19 in the plus/minus statistic.
Evan Leonard scored a team-high 20 points for UC Irvine and Eyassu Worku pitched in 10 points. Nobody else was in double-figures as the team shot just 31% from the field.
The Titans will host a watch party on Sunday afternoon that will be open to the public. Details will be announced as soon as possible.
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