FULLERTON, Calif. — After Cal State Fullerton’s dramatic come-from-behind, last-second win last month, the Long Beach State men’s basketball team returned the favor Wednesday night.
In front of a raucous, sold-out Titan Gym crowd reminiscent of last month’s affair at the Walter Pyramid, the 49ers (13-11, 8-4 Big West Conference) pulled out a 75-74 win over the Titans.
CSUF’s Marcio Lassiter was stripped of the ball with under 10 seconds to play, Larry Anderson held it on the floor before he lost it and Stephan Gilling dove and punched the loose ball across half court as time expired.
“I knew the time was winding down so I was just trying to keep the clock going and get the ball down court,” Gilling said.
The attendance of 4,025 was the largest home crowd at Fullerton since 4,128 packed Titan Gym for a March 6, 1993 game against UNLV.
With Cal State Northridge’s loss to UC Irvine, Long Beach is tied atop the Big West standings with four games to play. The top-2 teams get byes in the first two rounds of next month’s Big West Tournament.
It came as no surprise that the rematch in Fullerton was every bit as good as the first go-around. The second half featured eight lead changes.
After Titans star Josh Akognon hit a jumper with 3.9 seconds left in January to crush a sold-out Pyramid crowd, 49er head coach Dan Monson cited the growth of his young team as a big reason there was no repeat performance.
“It was pretty gratifying that our guys won it with a stop,” he said.
Aaron Thompson’s dunk with 1:36 to play made it 72-72, but Anderson calmly sank two free throws with 1:03 remaining to give LBSU a two-point advantage.
Papa Guisse did the same with 50.7 seconds left to once again even the score. With 32.8 left, Anderson made the second of two attempts to give LBSU a 75-74 lead.
Fullerton (13-13, 7-7 Big West) called timeout with 18 seconds to play with the ball in Akognon’s hands but the nation’s seventh-leading scorer wouldn’t touch it again.
Gilling led the ‘Niners with 17 points (5-of-7 from 3-point range, including 4-of-6 in the second half).
“Coach has been getting on me saying I need to make shots,” Gilling said. “He has a term we don’t need shooters we need makers so I felt I needed to step up and provide for the team.”
Anderson had 16 points and six rebounds. Casper Ware scored 11 and dished out seven assists.
Both teams shot the ball very well. Long Beach made 54 percent (27-of-50) of its shots, including 14-of-23 in the second half. Fullerton made 15 of its 29 second-half attempts and 48 percent overall (25-of-52).
The Beach knocked down 8 of its 17 3-point attempts and 13 of its 16 trys from the free-throw line.
“We keep telling our guys,” Monson said, “that almost every game has come down to a one-possession game and one-possession games come down to the rebounds and the free throws and the turnovers.
“We got out-rebounded by a couple at our place and out-rebounded them here. They outshot us at the free-throw line at our place and we outshot them here. It’s those little things and we took care of the ball pretty good by and large.”
The ‘Niners were once again without the services of leading scorer Donovan Morris — who has missed four of the last five games — due to a right foot injury. Morris won’t play in Saturday’s game against Green Bay-Wisconsin, either.
With the win, LBSU ran its road record in the Big West to 4-1.
“We realize the crowd is against us,” Anderson said about the team’s mindset on the road. “So we try and just stay as a team, play team ball and have no one go on their own.”
The Titans dropped to 12-2 when Akognon scores 25 or more points. He had 27 to lead all scorers.
Akognon once again was able to create his shot at will, making 9-of-14 from the field and 5-of-8 from 3-point range, but he was unable to get the ball out of the diamond defense employed by Long Beach on the last possession.
A 15-3 Titan run gave Fullerton its largest lead at 58-52 with 9:13 to play but an 8-3 LBSU run — which included two 3s by Cornell Williams and Gilling and a Greg Plater put-back — cut the margin to 61-60 with 7:21 to play. Neither team led by more than three the rest of the way.
T.J. Robinson battled foul trouble all night but still managed to score nine points and grab seven rebounds for Long Beach.
Gerard Anderson had 15, Thompson 11 and Guisse added 10 for Fullerton.
Long Beach held a 37-32 halftime edge. Anderson was the high-man for the ‘Niners with 10. Robinson added seven points and six rebounds in the first 20 minutes.
The Beach was up nine with the clock below 10 seconds but a Gerard Anderson lay-up and two free throws from Akognon after a LBSU turnover closed the margin to five at the half.
LBSU made 13-of-27 from the field and all eight of its free-throw attempts. Nine first-half turnovers, including five from center Brian Freeman, kept CSUF close. LBSU controlled the glass as well, grabbing 17 rebounds to Fullerton’s 11.
Akognon led all scorers at the break with 16, making five of his six attempts from the field and three of his four attempts from 3-point range.
Long Beach State returns home to the Walter Pyramid Saturday afternoon when they host Green Bay at 2:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU as part of its BracketBuster series.
Nyar har har!!! Karma is a you know what, huh Foolerton?