Josh Akognon’s fadeaway jumper from the left elbow with 3.9 left on the clock lifted Cal State Fullerton to a wild 61-60 win over Long Beach State Thursday night at the Walter Pyramid.
In front of a raucous season-high crowd of 4,263 fans, the Titans (10-10, 4-4 Big West Conference) had the last laugh.
Early in the second half it looked like Long Beach (10-9, 5-2 Big West) might run away with it but Fullerton came roaring back behind the outside shooting of Akognon.
“We just made too many mistakes when we had the lead and had an opportunity to take control of the game,” head coach Dan Monson said. “We get up 13 and make two or three mistakes in a row.”
Akognon, the eighth-leading scorer in the NCAA coming into the game, made just 3-of-11 in the first half, but sunk 8-of-12 from the field and 3-of-6 from 3-point range after intermission for 23 of Fullerton’s 37 second-half points.
“A player of Akognon’s stature,” Monson said, “is going to make you pay [for the mistakes] and he just made one more play than we did today. He was outstanding.”
Stephan Gilling hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 19 seconds to play to give The Beach a 60-59 lead.
But LBSU could not stop Akognon with the ball in his hands and the game on the line.
“Akognon had a hot hand,” Gilling said. “Any space he has, he’ll shoot it.”
CSUF is now 9-0 this season when Akognon scores 25 points or more.
Marcio Lassiter broke a 55-55 tie with a running lay-up after a LBSU turnover on the other end.
Donovan Morris nailed a jumper with 1:11 left to re-tie the game at 57.
Akognon put Fullerton back on top with a one-handed floater at the 31 second mark.
Gilling scored 15 for LBSU while Morris added 10.
Morris, hobbled by a bad foot, was a “game-time decision,” according to Monson.
Freshman T.J. Robinson had nine points and a career-high 15 rebounds.
LBSU remains in first place in the Big West at 5-2 but has now dropped consecutive contests at home after starting 5-0 in conference play.
The spring semester started Monday at Long Beach State and the LBSU faithful came out in force. It was a tremendous atmosphere in a near-capacity Pyramid frenzy.
Fullerton barely edged out The Beach on the glass, 38-36, but did pull down 14 rebounds on the offensive end.
Long Beach made 44.6 percent of their shots (25-of-56) while Fullerton went 24-of-65 or 36.9 percent.
Ray Miller was the only other Titan in double figures with 10.
Long Beach led 32-24 at the break.
T.J. Robinson led a balanced 49er attack with six points and pulled down nine first-half rebounds. Seven different ‘Niners had points in the first 20 minutes.
Akognon had eight for Fullerton to lead all scorers.
Fullerton made just 10 of its 34 attempts.
LBSU is back in action Saturday night at UC Irvine (7-13, 4-3 Big West). Irvine upended UC Riverside, 71-66, Thursday night.
The 49ers and Anteaters will tip it off at 7:05 p.m. from the Bren Events Center.