FULLERTON, Calif. -- Cal State Fullerton senior Kwame Vaughn's step-back jumper with less than two seconds to play found the bottom of the net as time expired Saturday night, lifting the host Titans to an edge-of-your-seat, 71-69, Big West Conference victory over UC Riverside at Titan Gym.
Fullerton improved to 10-6 overall and 3-1 in Big West play, winning its third-straight and for the seventh time in its last eight outings. The Highlanders fell to 4-12 overall and 1-3 in league play with the loss.
Vaughn had been just 1-of-11 from the field to that point after a three-pointer for his first field goal of the game at the 7:03 mark and had been held scoreless until a pair of free throws five minutes into the second half. The senior drove left, pulled up and got his defender in the air before stepping back and sinking a rainbow from six feet at the buzzer.
"Deuce set a great screen for me and a guy jumped to the help side so I turned it down and my teammates were in the right positions," Vaughn said. "I read the defense and hit the shot."
"We didn't know if they were going to go zone or man, so we had two plays drawn up coming out of the huddle… Kwame made a great read, came down into the paint, jump-stopped, and was under control and made the shot," said Interim Head Coach Andy Newman. "We've seen him make that shot regularly in practice and that's a late-game play that we've worked on so he's used to it, executed it, and got it done. It was a great read on his part, he has tremendous instincts."
The senior finished with 12 second-half points to go with four rebounds and three steals in 39 minutes, reaching double figures in points for the 16th time this season and 20-straight dating back to last year. Senior Sammy Yeager shared game-high honors with 19 points while D.J. Seeley (18), who also added five rebounds, six assists (against only one turnover), and five steals in 38 minutes, and Deuce Johnson (11) also finished in double digits.
Josh Fox scored 19 points to lead the Highlanders, who shot just over 62 percent from the floor for the game, but committed 23 turnovers on the night that led to 26 points for the Titans.
Cal State Fullerton led by as many as 14 points midway through the first half and led by six at the break built mainly on the back of 16 first-half turnovers by UCR. The Highlanders, however, opened the second half hot, scoring the first five points of the period, eventually tying the game at 41-41, and reeling the Titans back in after they built a five-point lead, using a 7-1 run to take their first lead at 49-48 on a basket by Chris Patton with 13:22 to play.
The run grew to 15-4 as Riverside pounced on a cold-shooting Fullerton squad that went without a field goal for almost six minutes, building a six-point lead on two occasions -- the last coming at 59-53 with 9:44 to play. Seeley drained a three from the left elbow and Jared Brandon scored inside to make it a one-point contest almost two minutes later before Fox hit 1-of-2 from the line for a two-point Highlander advantage.
Up stepped Vaughn, draining the three-pointer to give his side the lead and the Titans battled from there, never leading by more than four points until the ball emerged from a scrum and found Patton, who scored inside to tie the game at 69-69 with 16 seconds remaining and set up Vaughn's last-second heroics.
Fullerton shot just 43 percent from the field for the game and hit just 9-of-25 (.360) from three-point range -- the lowest field goal percentage by the team in a victory this season and the highest percentage allowed to an opponent in 16 games this season.
The Titans remain at home for their next two contests, hosting Orange County rival UC Irvine on Thursday (Jan. 17) at 8 p.m. in the second game of a doubleheader with the Fullerton women's team before welcoming rival Long Beach State on Saturday (Jan. 19) at 6:05 p.m.