Nov. 30, 2008
Anaheim, Calif. - Josh Akognon scored 26 points and four teammates also were in double figures Sunday afternoon as Cal State Fullerton held on for a 92-84 overtime men's basketball victory over Charlotte to claim seventh place in the 76 Classic at the Anaheim Convention Center.
Fullerton snapped a 3-game losing streak, improving to 3-4 and ending the Big West Conference's 5-game losing streak in the tournament with which it shares sponsorship with ESPN Regional TV. Charlotte fell to 1-6 and suffered its fifth loss by 5 points or less or in overtime. Ian Andersen and DiJuan Harris each scored 15 points to lead the way for the 49ers.
Aaron Thompson's running jump shot put Fullerton ahead to stay at 77-75 at the 3:18 mark of overtime. Fullerton then hit 10 of 10 free throws and got a key 3-pointer from Marcio Lassiter and a breakaway dunk from Thompson to hold off the 49ers, who had outscored Fullerton 7-0 over the final four minutes of regulation.
"I'm proud of our team," said CSF Head Coach Bob Burton. "They really competed the whole game. We're thrilled to get a win out of this tournament. We got a monkey off our back and the Big West's.
"I think this will be a huge confidence builder. If we had lost, it would have been a real tough loss.
"We've got to do something to limit the turnovers (26).... We're going to make some major changes in our offense."
Fullerton shot 52 percent from the floor including 12 of 21 (57 percent) from the 3-point line to offset the turnovers. The Titans, who were outrebounded by 22 against Saint Mary's on Friday, bounced back to win the battle this time, 48-35. Papa Guisse had a season-high 11 and Akognon grabbed 8 defensive rebounds.
Fullerton led most of the game after overcoming a strong start by Charlotte, which jumped out to a 15-7 lead as CSF starters Marcio Lassiter and Jacques Streeter each picked up two quick fouls. Charlotte concentrated its defense on Akognon, even using a box-and-one for awhile, and he was 0-for-2 over the first 13 minutes. But he hit a trey at 7:09 and then scored Fullerton's 10 points of the half for a 43-34 advantage.
Rhymes hit all four of his shots including a pair of 3-pointers as Charlotte was focused on Akognon.
"I thought Chris turned the game around in the first half," said Burton.
Fullerton was 7-of-11 from the 3-point line and shot 64 percent overall in the first half.
The second half was plagued by fouls and three players from each squad eventually fouled out. Fullerton missed eight of 18 free throws attempts including three in a row by Akognon, who is a 90 percent foul shooter. The misses in part prevented the Titans from building upon a 54-42 advantage with 14:47 to play.
Charlotte missed two free throws in the final two minutes of regulation but got even at 73-73 on a putback by An'Juan Wilderness with 48 seconds left. Thompson missed for Fullerton, which got an offensive team rebound and then played for the last shot with Akognon missing from the top of the key.
The teams exchanged offensive follow shots to open overtime. After Thompson put Fullerton ahead, Charlie Coley missed two free throws for Charlotte and Akognon hit two for the Titans, who then got a 3-pointer from Lassiter for an 82-75 lead with 54 seconds remaining.
Harris scored and the Titans turned the ball over and Wilderness made a layup to make it a 3-point game but the Titans got a dunk from Thompson after batting the ball around in the backcourt. Akognon and Rhymes each hit a pair of free throws for an 88-79 lead with 19 seconds left.
Fullerton leaves campus at 7 a.m. Monday morning for a flight to Louisiana to play at LSU Tuesday night for only their second game against a Southeastern Conference foe in the program's history.
"This is what we live for... we're not tired, we're ready to go," said Akognon when asked about the grueling schedule.
Guisse was asked about the big, physical players he faced this weekend.
"You have to deal with it and just be tougher than them," he said.