FULLERTON, Calif. -- Cal State Fullerton senior Kwame Vaughn became the 22nd player in school history to reach 1,000 career points, finishing with a game-high 29 on the night, but it wasn't enough to push the Titans past visiting UC Davis, as the Aggies held off host Fullerton in the closing minutes to escape Orange County with a 71-68 victory on Saturday night at Titan Gym.
Needing just 18 points to reach the milestone entering the night, Vaughn scored 22 of his 29 in the second half to spearhead a Fullerton "Senior Night" rally from 14 points down, reaching the mark with a three-pointer to make it 52-51 in favor of UC Davis with 11:26 to play. He joined teammate D.J. Seeley, who sat out the game due to injury, in the 1,000-point club, becoming the first Titan duo in 21 years (Agge Ward and Joe Small in 1991-92) to accomplish the feat in the same season.
Sophomore Alex Harris added 15 points and seven assists in 39 minutes for the Titans, who fell to 14-15 overall and 6-10 in Big West Conference play, but clinched a berth in the upcoming Big West Tournament thanks to Cal State Northridge's loss to UC Santa Barbara. Fullerton is currently the No. 7 seed, standing one game ahead of the Gauchos in the standings, with the two teams scheduled to meet next Thursday (March 7) in Santa Barbara.
"I was proud of their effort," Interim Head Coach Andy Newman said. "We are down to four scholarship guys… this is the most injury-plagued season I've ever experienced. Losing Sammy (Yeager), our third-leading scorer, and then losing D.J., we're just trying to find a way to win a basketball game. We gave ourselves a chance to win, it came down to a call, and it is what is."
Trailing by a point with under 10 seconds to play, Titans freshman Jared Brandon sank what was thought to be the go-ahead basket with just over seven ticks left on the clock, but was whistled for the offensive foul as Josh Richart took the charge, handing the ball back to the Aggies. UC Davis then hit four free throws down the stretch to hold off any further rally as Alex Harris' heave from beyond half court sailed wide right as time expired.
J.T. Adenrele finished with a double-double of 22 points and 15 rebounds -- including eight on the offensive glass -- to lead three UC Davis players in double figures, as the Aggies evened their record at 14-14 overall and moved to 9-7 in league play.
Fullerton fell behind by as many as 14 points in the final minute of the first half, but Vaughn brought them back, scoring eight of the team's first 12 points in the second period and later hit the three-pointer that pushed him over 1,000 points to whittle a 10-point deficit back to just one.
Junior Deuce Johnson scored inside to give Fullerton its first lead since the nine minute mark of the first half, one of 10 lead changes in the period, but the Titans could not build a lead of more than two points at 62-60 with 7:05 to play. Two tie scores and a pair of free throws by Vaughn with 3:08 to go put Fullerton back ahead by one, but a short jumper by Adenrele regained the lead for the Aggies to set up the final sequence.
"Defensively, we played well, then offensively, we started scoring a little bit," Newman said. "It's just something about our first halves we're just tentative, afraid to make plays, and aren't aggressive enough. Then, after we get a half under our belt, we get aggressive, play a lot more free and that's the way you've got to shoot. That's how we play well and score the ball. That's how we need to play both halves."
UC Davis sprinted out of the gate with the first five points of the game, but a 7-0 run by the Titans erased the advantage and neither team led by more than three points in the first 12 minutes. A three-pointer by Ryan Sypkens with 8:39 to play tied the game at 22-all and jumpstarted a 21-6 burst to close out the half for Davis, which led 40-28 at the break.
The Aggies shot just under 51 percent from the field for the game, including a 56 percent clip in the second half, to out-shoot the Titans, who finished at 43 percent for the game and 54 percent in the second half after hitting just 9-of-27 (.333) from the field in the first 20 minutes. Fullerton was out rebounded, 39-22, for the game, but committed just nine turnovers for the night, turning 16 Davis miscues into 18 points.
After taking on UC Santa Barbara on March 7, the Titans head to San Luis Obispo to take on Cal Poly in the regular season finale on Saturday (March 9) at 7 p.m.