SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Despite taking a seven-point lead into halftime, Cal State Fullerton was outscored 54-34 by UC Santa Barbara in the second half after the Gauchos shot 66.7 percent from the field to defeat the Titans 81-68 Saturday night at the Thunderdome.
The loss is the Titans' seventh setback in their last eight games as they fall to 9-13 overall and 2-7 in the Big West. Meanwhile, the Gauchos improve to 10-12 on the year and 4-5 in league action.
UCSB was led offensively by Michael Bryson who poured in 25 points, while narrowly missing a double-double with nine rebounds. He also dished out a game-high seven assists. Gabe Vincent also turned in a 20-point effort, while Eric Childress rounded out the double-figure scoring for the Gauchos with 13 points.
The Titans also boasted three double-figure scorers led by freshman guard Khalil Ahmad who racked up 21 points in the game to mark his sixth 20-point performance of the year. Ahmad also led CSF in rebounds with seven to go along with a team-high four assists. Adding to Fullerton's offense were Tre' Coggins and Malcolm Brooks with 17 and 14 points, respectively.
UC Santa Barbara kicked off the game with an early lead, but Cal State Fullerton stayed with the hosts and took its first lead of the game at 12:11 on a three off the hands of Brooks. The two teams battled back and forth until the Titans broke a 25-25 tie at 3:32 when Kennedy Esume sunk both free throws. From there, Fullerton went on a 9-0 run to take a 34-25 lead before taking a 34-27 advantage into halftime.
In the first half, Cal State Fullerton out-shot UCSB 34.5 percent to 31.3 percent, but the main point differential came at the charity stripe as the Titans connected on 9-of-10 free throws, while the Gauchos made 2-of-3.
Coggins had a solid first half as he tallied nine points – all of which came from long distance. The redshirt junior finished the frame shooting 60 percent from beyond the arc.
The Gauchos began the second half on a 12-4 run to take a one-point lead in the game (39-38). By 13:56, UCSB garnered a lead they would not relinquish as they held the edge the rest of the way.
The Titans stayed close, but the Gauchos sunk all six of their free throws in the final minute of action to extend their lead to 13 by the time the clock expired.
Cal State Fullerton continues its road swing when it heads to CSUN on Wednesday, Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.