March 13, 2008
Anaheim, Calif. - Cal State Fullerton junior Josh Akognon scored a team-high 20 points while senior Frank Robinson added 19 more to help lead the third-seeded Titans to an 81-69 victory over seventh-seeded UC Riverside in a Big West Conference Tournament quarterfinal match-up on Thursday night at the Anaheim Convention Center.
The victory improved Fullerton to 22-8 overall this season and earned the Titans a rematch with second-seeded Cal State Northridge in Friday night's second semifinal beginning at approximately 8:30 p.m.
UCR finished its season at 9-21 overall and was led offensively by Larry Cunningham's game-high 23 points to lead two other Highlanders in double figures.
"We're happy to get this one out of the way," said CSF Head Coach Bob Burton. "I was real worried about this game... I was impressed with how hard UC Riverside played the night before.
"We were excited to hold (Larry) Cunningham to 23 points. Last year he got 34 on us in the second half. Frank and Marcio (Lassiter) did a terrific job on him."
"Our plan was to contain him," said Robinson of Cunningham. "He backed up and started shooting threes and it's kind of hard to guard him when he does that."
An 11-0 run to start the game got Fullerton off to a quick start and the Titans, who shot 45 percent from the floor in the opening period, led by as many as 16 points on two occasions in the first half en route to the 35-21 halftime lead.
Cal State Fullerton's lead ballooned to as many as 17 points just four minutes into the second half before a brief 10-2 spurt by Riverside brought the lead back down to single digits at 50-41 with 14:27 remaining.
The Titans' lead grew to a game-high 18 points on a jumper by Marcus Crenshaw with just over 18 minutes to play, but the Highlanders rallied back to close to within nine points thanks to a 13-4 run to make it 73-64 with just over four minutes to play.
However, Fullerton slammed the door, hitting 6-of-6 from the line in the final two minutes while Riverside struggled to hit 1-of-6 from the field in the same span.
Akognon hit 6-of-13 from the field to lead a very balanced scoring performance as every Titan who got into the game scored at least two points. Robinson added nine rebounds and seven assists while senior Scott Cutley also finished in double figures with 10 points and five assists.
Fullerton finished shooting 52 percent from the field and just over 44 percent from three points range despite being outrebounded 39-23 for the game. The Titans committed only nine turnovers on the night while forcing UCR into 18 for the game, turning those into 20 points.
"We are excited to meet Northridge... that means we are still here," said Burton. "That will be a completely different game. We will have to stop their transition and fastbreak and compete on the boards."