March 7, 2009
Fullerton, Calif. - Eric Wise scored 20 points and Michael Hunter added 16 Saturday evening as UC Irvine defeated Cal State Fullerton, 65-62, in the final regular season game for both teams.
Patrick Rembert had a career-high 9 assists and Derrick Strings came off the bench to match his best with 11 points as UCI improved to 12-18 overall and 8-8 in the Big West Conference. Kevin Bland led all rebounders with 12.
UC Irvine finishes tied for fourth place with UC Santa Barbara and UC Riverside but will be the No. 5 seed and face No. 8 seed Davis in the opening round at 6 p.m. Wednesday of the Big West Conference Tournament at the Anaheim Convention Center. Fullerton finishes tied for seventh with UC Davis and will be the No. 7 seed and face UC Riverside in the second game Wednesday night.
UCI had a 63-58 lead with 1:06 to play after a Wise baseline jumper. Streeter hit two free throws for Fullerton at 1:03 and then forced an Anteater turnover that Marcio Lassiter converted into two free throws to make it 63-62 with 50 seconds left.
Rembert's entry pass went out of bounds and the Titans had a chance to take the lead. Akognon penetrated and passed inside to Gerard Anderson who lost the ball in traffic out of bounds to UCI with 10 seconds left.
Brett Lauer converted a one-and-one with 7.1 seconds left and the Titans didn't get a final shot as Streeter and Akognon fumbled an exchange near the sideline and time expired.
UCI led virtually the entire game. The biggest lead was 29-19 late in the first half but Fullerton cut the intermission deficit to 31-27.
Fullerton took its only lead of the second half at 39-38 on a 3-pointer by Thompson with 14:50 to play. Strings put UCI ahead to stay at 45-42 with a 3-pointer at 12:24 and UCI boosted the lead to as many as 9 points at 53-44 with 7:48 left.
Akognon's 13-point total was the fifth lowest of the year for the Big West's leading scorer, who came in at 23.8 points per game. He had only 12 points in an overtime loss at UCI in early January. He made only one 3-pointer, connecting on his eighth and final try with 3:05 to play to extend his streak of games with a trey to 42 in a row, the longest streak in the nation among active Div. I players. He made only 6 of 20 shots overall in his final Titan Gym appearance.
UCI had 19 assists on its 25 baskets and shot 46 percent from the floor. The 3-point shooting (UCI .360 and CSF .368) was a standoff as was rebounding with each team grabbing 34.
Senior Marcio Lassiter had 10 points in his final game in Titan Gym, where Fullerton was only 6-6 this year, 2-6 in Big West games. UC Irvine has won four of its last five games and finished the regular season 11-9.
Fullerton will open the tournament Wednesday night. UCI's status won't be known until later tonight.