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    Cal State Fullerton can’t hold off UC Davis down stretch
    • January 19, 2024

    FULLERTON — The Cal State Fullerton men’s basketball team needs momentum if it hopes to climb out of the bottom tier of the Big West Conference standings, but a chance to begin that ascent slipped away in the final minutes on Thursday night.

    Fullerton led for much of the second half and was ahead by one point with 1:24 left, but ultimately lost to UC Davis, 67-65, at Titan Gym, dropping the Titans to 8-10 overall and 1-5 in Big West play.

    Max Jones led Fullerton with 18 points, four rebounds and three assists, while Tory San Antonio had 12 points and six rebounds. Beril Kabamba added 11 points and seven rebounds and Grayson Carper had 11 points and five rebounds.

    Elijah Pepper had 27 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Aggies (11-7, 6-1), while Ty Johnson had 14 points (all in the second half) and four steals and Niko Rocak added 11 points. UC Davis has won seven of its past eight games.

    The Titans led by as much as 11 points midway through the second half, and they withstood an initial UC Davis surge and still led 58-49 after a Jones 3-pointer with 5:44 left. But the Aggies followed with a 12-2 run to grab a 61-60 lead with 1:58 left.

    Kabamba made a pair of free throws on the following possession to give the Titans their 62-61 advantage with 1:24 left. The teams then traded misses from 3-point range before Pepper hit a pair of free throws with 31 seconds left to put the Aggies back ahead.

    The Aggies’ Leo DeBruhl then stole the ball from Jones and made two more free throws for a 65-62 lead with 22 seconds left. Fullerton’s Carper missed a 3-point attempt on the ensuing possession, but John Mikey Square grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled, making one of his two free throws to cut the margin to two points with 16 seconds left.

    Fullerton was forced to foul and Pepper made two more free throws (he finished 10 for 10 from the line) to make it a two-possession game with 10 seconds left. Carper missed another 3-point try and San Antonio made a layup to close the scoring as the Aggies held on.

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    Both sides made each other work to get good shots. UC Davis held the Titans to 38% shooting from the field and forced 15 Titans turnovers that led to 16 points on the other end for the Aggies. Fullerton held the visitors to 34.7% shooting, including a 5-for-23 showing from behind the arc, but the Aggies were strong from the free-throw line (28 for 33), where they outscored the Titans by 10 points.

    UC Davis led 9-4 early, but back-to-back 3-pointers from Kabamba and Carper gave Fullerton a 17-15 lead. San Antonio, Carper and Jones added 3-pointers as the Titans opened a 30-25 advantage, then Carper hit one more just before the break as Fullerton took a 36-25 lead into halftime.

    Jones hit another 3-pointer early in the second half and DJ Brewton found Carper for a transition layup to give the Titans a 46-35 advantage with 13:09 left. Kabamba found San Antonio for a 3-pointer and Square added a layup to give Fullerton its 53-42 advantage with 9:19 left.


    Fullerton plays at UC Santa Barbara (11-6, 4-3) on Saturday at 1 p.m.

    Second-place UC Davis hosts first-place UC Irvine (13-5, 6-0) on Saturday at 2 p.m.

    ​ Orange County Register