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Titans hold off 'Eaters

Men's Basketball

Cal State Fullerton builds 30-point lead before the half and hangs on to hand UCI its third straight home loss Saturday night.

January 21, 2012|By Barry Faulkner
(Steven Georges…)

IRVINE — UC Irvine men's basketball coach Russell Turner said visiting Cal State Fullerton was allowed to explode to a 30-point first-half lead because the Anteaters never made the Titans feel them.

But after feeling close to invincible in the opening 20 minutes — making 21 of 33 field-goal attempts, including nine of 14 three-point tries and amassing a 22-8 rebounding advantage to claim a 56-30 intermission lead — the Anteaters' Big West Conference and Orange County rivals felt something significantly less comforting down the stretch.

UCI (6-13, 3-4 in conference) made Fullerton (12-6, 4-2) feel a shade of insecurity, if not downright pressure, by rallying furiously at the Bren Events Center.

The 'Eaters held the Titans without a field goal for nearly the first seven minutes of the second half and drained 10 of 16 three-pointers in the final period to eventually pare the deficit to 87-81 with 58 seconds left.

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But that was as close at UCI came, as the Titans halted a four-game road losing streak with a 92-84 victory.

It was the third straight home setback for UCI, which had 22 assists on its 28 field goals and forced two more turnovers than the 15 it committed.

UCI posted a 23-15 rebounding advantage and picked up its defensive intensity after halftime. But its first-half hole proved to be too deep, as the Titans prevailed behind a strong trio of Bay Area transfers.

Former Cal Golden Bears Omondi Amoke (23 points and 17 rebounds) and D.J. Seeley (27 points on nine of 14 field-goal shooting, including six for six from threedom) were bolstered by Don Kwame Vaughn (25 points, including draining four of five from three-point range), formerly of USF.

The scoring and rebounding totals were season highs for Amoke, while Seeley also had his season-high point total.

"The guy who was an absolute man was Amoke," said Titans Coach Bob Thornton, who called his team's first-half ambush perhaps the finest 20 minutes by any team during his nine-season tenure at the school.

"I don't think we could have played any better than we played in the first half," Burton said. "We were playing so well and shooting the ball so well, it was just unbelievable."

Turner also credited the Titans, but took issue with his team's defensive effort in the opening half.

"[The Titans] did play well, but we didn't make them feel us," Turner said. "If a team goes off on you like that, it's usually because they play well and you allow them to play well. That's what we did."

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