STOCKTON, Calif. -- Khalil Kelley scored inside with just over two minutes remaining to break a 65-all tie and Sama Taku sank four free throws in the final 15 seconds helping host Pacific hold-off a charging Cal State Fullerton squad for a 71-67 victory on Saturday night at the Spanos Center in Stockton.
Senior D.J. Seeley finished with a game-high 23 points while playing almost the entire 40 minutes before fouling out for the Titans (11-9 overall, 4-4 in the Big West Conference), who rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit with a 15-4 run over a four-minute span midway through the half to tie the game at 52 with 10 minutes remaining.
Neither team led by more than three points over the next seven minutes, a span that featured five tie scores, but Fullerton could not wrest the lead away from the Tigers (12-8, 6-2), who held the Titans to just 1-of-4 from the field, including an open three that wouldn't fall by Seeley with 22 seconds left and the team down two, and forced two turnovers in the final two minutes to help preserve the victory.
Sophomore Alex Harris finished with a Fullerton career-high 19 points on 6-of-12 from the floor, including six rebounds, while senior Kwame Vaughn narrowly missed out on a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds. Both Seeley and Harris finished with five makes from beyond the arc for the night as the Titans shot 50 percent from long distance.
Leading scorer Lorenzo McCloud finished with a team-high 14 points to pace five starters in double figures for Pacific, which shot 50 percent from the floor for the game and almost 62 percent (8-of-13) from three-point range against Fullerton, which entered the night ranked second in the Big West in three-point percentage defense.
The Titans opened the game a perfect 4-for-4 from the field -- all from three-point range -- and hit five of their first six from the field to go up by five points just six minutes in. Fullerton would hold another five-point advantage at 22-17 with just over 10 minutes to play before Pacific closed strong, using an 8-2 burst as part of a larger, period-closing, 18-8 run to regain the lead and hold a 35-30 advantage at the break.
Faced with a halftime deficit for the fourth-consecutive game and the fifth time overall this season, the Titans saw the gap widen behind three-pointers from Colin Beatty and McCloud to increase the Tigers' lead to nine points at 41-32 just two minutes into the second half. The two teams would trade baskets until a three-pointer from Taku gave Pacific its largest lead of the game at 48-37 with 15 minutes to play before the Tigers had to hold on for a tight finish.
Vaughn hit back-to-back three's with his team down 10 to jumpstart Fullerton's rally, eventually tying the score for a final time at 65-65 on a three-pointer by Harris with just over three-minutes to play. Kelley then answered with the tie-breaking basket and the Titans could manage only a driving bucket by Vaughn with seven-seconds to play the rest of the way.
Fullerton shot just under 42 percent from the floor for the game to Pacific's 50 percent, but held the advantage on the glass for the second-straight contest, 33-28.
Two home games await the Titans next weekend as Fullerton hosts Cal State Northridge on Thursday (Jan. 31) at 7:05 p.m. before welcoming Hawaii to Titan Gym for Homecoming on Saturday (Feb. 2) at 8 p.m.