FULLERTON, Calif. – Cal State Fullerton men's basketball earned the No. 15 seed in the East region and will play the No. 2 seed Purdue Boilermakers in the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship on Friday at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
It is the first-ever matchup between the two programs and the game will tip-off at 9:40 a.m. PT/12:40 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast live on TruTV and on MarchMadness.com.
FROM THE TIP
• Cal State Fullerton earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament as they won the Big West Tournament as the No. 4 seed on March 10 with a 71-55 victory over UC Irvine. The Titans have made the NCAA Tournament two times prior to this year, the first in 1977-78, when the field was just 32 teams and the second was in 2007-08 when CSF earned the No. 14 seed. Cal State Fullerton owns a 2-2 all-time tournament record.
• The Titans enter Friday's matchup having won eight of their last 10 games. Fifteen seeds have upset two seeds eight times throughout NCAA Tournament history. Four of those times have happened since 2012, with the most recent coming in 2016 (MTSU over Michigan State).
• It was announced on March 5 that junior guard Kyle Allman, Jr. was named to the All-Big West Conference first team, junior guard Khalil Ahmad was named to the second team and sophomore forward Jackson Rowe was an honorable mention. Those three student-athletes were also named to the Big West Tournament All-Tournament Team, with Allman taking home MVP honors. Allman was also named second team NABC All-District 9 on March 13.
• Junior guard Kyle Allman, Jr., the Jan. 8 and Jan. 29 Big West Player of the Week, is first in the league in scoring at 19.4 points per game overall and in just BWC play, he led the way at 21.6 ppg. Allman is shooting 48.8 percent from the field, the No. 1 mark in the league (per NCAA). He's second on the team in assists at 2.4 per game (73 total) and is second on the team in steals with 36 (1.2 per game). Allman has scored 20+ points 16 times this season, including six of the last eight games, and 30+ points on four occasions. The Brooklyn native has scored in double figures in 27 of 31 games in 2017-18. Allman has made seven or more free throws 12 times this year.
• Junior guard Khalil Ahmad, the Big West Player of the Week on Dec. 11 and Feb. 12, is second on the squad and sixth in the Big West in scoring at 15.3 points per game. He's made the most three-point field goals on the squad at 56. He has made four or more three-point field goals in eight games this season. Ahmad is shooting 82.9% percent from the free-throw line this year, which is the No. 5 mark in the BWC (per NCAA).
• Ahmad became the 24th Titan in program history to score 1,000 points in a career after scoring 31 at UC Davis (Feb. 10). He has scored 1,140 points in his career, the 17th-best mark in the program and just 15 points behind Bruce Bowen at No. 16. Allman joined him in the 1K Club on Feb. 28 when he scored 23 points at CSUN.
• Sophomore forward Jackson Rowe is third in the conference in field goal percentage (per Big West) at 58.1(133-229). Rowe is one of three Titans to average double figures in scoring at 12.2 per game. He leads the team and is fifth in the league in rebounding, hauling in 6.8 per contest. For the year, Rowe is also shooting 41.1 percent (23-56) from beyond the arc. Rowe has recorded four double-doubles during the season and was flirting with a triple-double against CSUN (Feb. 17) when he had 16 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. He is the team's leading shot blocker with 30 on the season.
LUCKY NUMBER SEVEN...AND EIGHT
Each of the three times the Titans have qualified for the NCAA Tournament it has been in years that end in 7-8. CSF went to the "Elite Eight" in 1977-78, played in the first round in 2007-08 and now earned a trip to the tournament this year in 2017-18. In both 2007-08 and 2017-18, CSF played UC Irvine in the Big West Tournament final and obviously, earned victories on both occasions.
BIG WEST TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONS
This season the Titans won the league tournament for the third time in program history. In the quarterfinal round, the No. 4 seeded CSF defeated Long Beach State by a score of 76-74 with the Titans getting a defensive stop on the final possession to secure the win. In the semifinal matchup against No. 1 seed UC Davis, the Titans came back from a 13-point deficit in the second half to beat the Aggies 55-52. After two nail biters, CSF cruised to a 71-55 victory over UC Irvine in the final, leading for over 36 minutes of the game and played what head coach Dedrique Taylor called, the team's best game of the year. The trio of Allman, Ahmad and Rowe combined to score 145 of the 202 points CSF scored in those three games.
FRIDAY, MARCH 16 VS. PURDUE || 9:40 AM PT
Series Record: 0-0
Home Record: 0-0
Away Record: 0-0
Neutral Record: 0-0
Current Streak: 0-0
First Meeting: N/A
Last Meeting: N/A
Purdue enters the tournament with a 28-6 overall record after finishing Big Ten play in a second-place tie with a 15-3 mark. The Boilermakers have had a whirlwind season, but have been ranked in the nation's top 10 in each of the last 10 weeks. After starting the year 4-2, Purdue defeated then-No. 2-ranked Arizona 89-64 in the Battle 4 Atlantis, to kick off the nation's longest winning streak of the season at 19 games.
The Boilermakers then lost three straight games by a total of eight points, before running off five straight wins entering the Big Ten Tournament finals. Purdue reached its second Big Ten Tournament finals in three years but fell to a surging Michigan squad to end the year with a 28-6 record.
Purdue is led by four seniors and a sophomore which combine to average 66.5 points per game among them. Sophomore Carsen Edwards, a finalist for the Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award, leads Purdue in scoring at 18.5 points per game, Isaac Haas averages 14.9 points per game, Vincent Edwards leads the team in rebounding (7.3 RPG) and contributes 14.5 points per game and Dakota Mathias chips in 12.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.
SET THE TABLE
For CSF, sophomore guard Austen Awosika is fourth on the team in scoring (7.5 ppg), fourth on the team in rebounding (3.7 rpg) and leads the squad in assists at 2.7 per game. He has hauled in at least three rebounds in 23 of 31 games this season. He has assisted on a team-high 18.3% of his teammates field goals while he's on the court. Awosika also has a team-high +126 plus-minus rating, meaning CSF has out-scored the opponent by 126 points this season with him on the floor. Per 40 minutes, he has a rating of +6.06.
MOVE THE BALL
Head coach Dedrique Taylor has emphasized ball movement to the team and it is still a work-in-progress but has been better later in the season as the team is third in assists per game in the conference at 12.8. At this point in the season, the Titans average 14.6 assists in their wins and only 9.5 in their losses. The Titans dished out a season-high 21 assists on Feb. 17 against Cal State Northridge and recorded double-digit assists in each of the three games at the Big West Tournament.
CSF entered The Wooden Legacy ranked 351st in the nation in free-throw percentage at 49%. Since then, the team has shot better than 70% in all but five games, including seven games greater than 83%. The squad is 13-2 when it makes more free throws than the opponent and 13-5 when it has more attempts. In 23 of 31 games, CSF had 20 or more attempts at the line. CSF is second in the league and top-50 in the nation in both free throws attempts (729) and free throws made (535) on the year.
Taylor has a whiteboard at practice that faces the court and a student manager tracks turnovers and deflections for each individual. It is a point of emphasis for him and the team as he mentions it after every game. The Titans average 14.1 turnovers per game and are still looking to cut that number down. In the Big West Tournament final, the Titans recorded a season-low five turnovers. The team is 10-3 on the year when they have less turnovers than the opponent.
UPDATING THE RECORD BOOKS
Allman had his name etched into the Cal State Fullerton record book after The Wooden Legacy over Thanksgiving weekend. Allman poured in a-then career-high 34 points against Georgia (Nov. 23), one of the best scoring performances in program history. He then had the fifth-best scoring performance in CSF history on Jan. 27 at Hawai'i when he scored 40 points on 16-19 shooting.
Rowe tied a 37-year old school record for the best field goal percentage in a single game, as he shot 10-10 from the field against Harvard (11/26/17) for a career-high 25 points.
Ahmad had one of the best scoring performances as well, tying Allman with 34 points of his own against Utah Valley (Dec. 9) with a career-high six threes made. He also recorded the third-best performance in program history from the free-throw line in a single game. He shot 100% from the stripe on 14 attempts at Utah Valley on Dec. 30.
PICK YOUR SPOTS
The Titans have tried to pick their spots better in transition and slow the game down in order to get better shots and try to cut down on the turnovers. Taylor is still looking for the team to push the ball when they can and after 31 games, the team averages 69.5 possessions per 40 minutes (KenPom) which is ranked No. 97 in the country.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
After scoring a career-high 40 points on Saturday night, junior guard Kyle Allman, Jr. was recognized as the Big West Conference Player of the Week for the second time this season and the third time in his career. He averaged 32.0 points per game in a 1-1 split at home against UC Santa Barbara and at Hawai'i. He scored a career-high 40 points, one point off the Stan Sheriff Center single-game points record. Allman dished out a team-high four assists, meaning he had a role in 49 of the team's 69 points in a 69-66 victory.
Allman also earned Big West Player of the Week honors on Jan. 8 after averaging 23.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in a pair of Titan victories. Over the two wins against UC Riverside (68-65, Jan. 3) and Cal Poly (101-97, Jan. 6), the guard shot 55.2 percent (16 of 29) from the field and connected at 72.2 percent (13 of 18) from the charity stripe.
Khalil Ahmad was named Big West Player of the Week on Dec. 11 for his play over the week of Dec. 4-10. Ahmad earned his first career Big West Men's Basketball Player of the Week award after helping Cal State Fullerton win its fourth and fifth straight games. The 6-4 guard averaged 29.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game as the Titans defeated Portland (76-66) on the road and Utah Valley (91-83) at home. He shot 58.8 percent (10-for-17) from distance for the week.
Ahmad also earned the honor on Feb. 12 after averaging 26.5 points on 70.4% shooting in a pair of Titan victories last weekend. Ahmad shot a remarkable 70.4% (19-of-27) from the floor overall, including five made three-pointers (in 10 attempts) while sinking all but one of his 11 free throw tries.
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