March 11, 2009
Anaheim, Calif. - Josh Akognon scored a Big West Conference Basketball Tournament record 37 points Wednesday night to lead Cal State Fullerton to a 59-46 first-round victory over UC Riverside.
The seventh-seeded Titans improved to 15-16 and will play in the quarterfinals at about 8:30 Thursday night against No. 4-seeded UC Santa Barbara. Sixth-seeded UCR ended its best-ever Div. I season at 17-13. UCR's 46 points were the fewest allowed by the Titans this season.
Akognon also ran his season's total to 741 points to break Leon Wood's Cal State Fullerton single-season scoring record of 719 points in 1983-84. Akognon made 14 of 22 shots including a personal high of 9 3-pointers in 15 attempts.
"Leon Wood is the best player to come out of Cal State Fullerton, so to break a record of his is a blessing," said Akognon. "I just got into a zone. I really work hard on my shot, but I could have been on or off tonight. I just try to take high percentage shots. When I got it rolling, I could take more off-balance shots.
"I had two bad (shooting) games against Riverside. I knew I would get the same kind of shots, I just had to be confident they were going to go in."
"I had no idea what to do with a lead like that," said CSF Coach Bob Burton. "We got a little cushion and were able to get him the ball and run some clock. What I really liked was our defense. It was our best all year, holding them to 30 percent shooting."
The old tournament mark was 36 points by Lucious Harris of Long Beach State in 1993 and Ricky Berry of San Jose State in 1988, both of whom ended up in the NBA. Akognon came up two shy of UCI's Chris Brown, who has the tournament record with 11 3-point field goals in a game.
The 37 points are the fifth most scored in Fullerton's Div. I history. Bobby Brown has the record with 47. Akognon twice this season had 41 and Richard Morton had 38 against UC Irvine in 1988.
Akognon scored 17 points in the first half on 7-for-11 shooting including 3 of 6 treys. But Brandon Dowdy was even hotter for UCR, also scoring 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting and 4-of-4 from the 3-point line. Only a dunk just before the buzzer by Ray Miller gave Fullerton the halftime lead at 28-26. The Titans had trailed, 23-16, with 5:40 remaining.
"When it was 23-16, you start thinking I could be playing my last game," said Akognon. "I knew I had to do something to get us back into it."
Dowdy did not score in the second half and Akognon again made 7-for-11 including 6-for-9 from behind the arc for 20 points. (His 14 field goals tied the tourney record by Larry Johnson of UNLV in 1990 against Fullerton and by Michael Olowokani of Pacific in 1998). He hit three of three treys in a 13-0 run which lifted the Titans into a 44-30 lead with13:56 to play. The Titans stalled offensively with several turnovers and let UCR get some momentum with a couple of buckets to make it 44-34 at 11:10. But Akognon scored twice around a Gerard Anderson putback dunk to stretch the margin to 51-34 at 9:04. Soto made a free throw and Akognon hit two more treys to make it 57-35 with 4:25 remaining as the Titans repeatedly ran down the shot clock. UCR scored the game's final 8 points.
Fullerton has now won at least one tourney game in each of the past five seasons after winning only one game during the 1991 through 2003 tournaments. Burton is 7-4 in the tournament including a 3-0 run to last year's title.
Akognon is averaging 25.4 points in 7 careers games at the Anaheim Convention Center with totals of 20, 24, 23, 24, 24, 26 an 37.
Fullerton swept both meetings this season with UCSB but had to come from far behind in both. The Titans rallied from a 13-point first-half deficit to win, 62-58, on Jan. 10 at UCSB. Akognon had 20 points in the second half to 21 for the UCSB team. Fullerton rallied from a 22-point deficit early in the second half for a 72-65 home win on Feb. 5. Akognon had 29 points in that game, again with 20 in the second half.