Coming up just short in spoiling Fullerton’s senior night, the Long Beach State men’s basketball team closed out its regular season with a 75-69 loss at the Titan Gym.
Saturday’s game snapped the Titans’ (11-20, 6-10 Big West) four-game losing skid, and marked their sixth straight win over the Beach (11-21, 6-10 Big West).
Leading the way with three other Fullerton upperclassmen in double-figure scoring on the night, senior guard Austen Awosika nearly triple-doubled with 13 points, seven rebounds, 10 assists and three steals.
“At the end of the day, you gotta tip your hats off to [Fullerton],” Long Beach State associate head coach Myke Scholl said. “They were facing elimination, which we faced a couple nights ago, and they came out here and battled. Those seniors wanted it and they made a couple more plays than us down the stretch.”
Despite each player picking up at least three fouls alongside Awosika, fellow seniors, guard Brandon Kamga and forward Jackson Rowe, combined for 34 points, six 3-pointers, 11 rebounds, a steal and two blocks.
Following up the opening ceremony for the seniors, the Titans came out to a blazing start on 5-for-7 3-point shooting. The Beach’s offense accepted the challenge, knocking down three of its first six threes to weather the storm.
Trailing by 10 midway through the first half shootout, Long Beach picked it up defensively, and went on a 14-4 run to cut the deficit to one as Fullerton’s leaders dealt with foul trouble.
Senior guard Jordan Griffin made his second consecutive start, giving the Beach an offensive spark with 10 points and two 3-pointers in the first half. Although he remained scoreless the rest of the way, Griffin also added two assists, a steal and two blocks.
Picking up Long Beach’s offensive duties after the halftime break, sophomore guard Michael Carter III finished with a game-high 21 points (6-13 FG, 2-4 3PT) to go with four rebounds, two assists and a block. Freshman forward Romelle Mansel was active wire-to-wire for the Beach, adding 12 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block.
“We feel like anybody in this league was hoping for us to lose and not be in the tournament,” Scholl said. “Unfortunately for them, we’re in the tournament and we’re going to do our best. We gotta play them all anyway to win it, so might as well start with the giant first, slay them and see if you can keep dancing.”
No. 8 Long Beach State will face No. 1 UC Irvine in the Big West Conference tournament quarterfinals Thursday, March 12, at 6 p.m. at the Honda Center.