Nov. 28, 2008
Anaheim, Calif. - Patrick Mills scored 21 points and Diamon Simpson grabbed 17 rebounds Friday afternoon to pace Saint Mary's to a 79-54 men's basketball victory over Cal State Fullerton in the consolation semfinals of the 76 Classic at the Anaheim Convention Center Arena.
Saint Mary's improved to 4-1 and will play Providence for the consolation title on Sunday. Fullerton lost its third in a row to fall to 2-4 and will play Charlotte, a 67-62 loser to Providence later Friday, on Sunday at noon for seventh place. That game will be televised live on ESPNU.
Josh Akognon scored 24 points on 8 of 17 shooting but Marcio Lassiter was the only other Titan in double figures with 12 points. Gerard Anderson led Fullerton with 7 rebounds but the Gaels had a huge edge on the glass, 54-32, including 26 offensive rebounds - 20 while building a 36-28 halftime lead.
"This was a tough game for us," said Fullerton Coach Bob Burton. "Saint Mary's is an NCAA team and can win its conference and I thought they would win this tournament.
"I can't remember having a team play this poorly. It's embarrassing to come in here and talk to you. At times we played pretty good defense, but we couldn't rebound and got killed on the boards. I thought we would compete a lot more. Our kids' heads are down and we have a long way to go.
"Rebounding is about toughness and being aggressive... right now we're doing nothing good. Our offense and rebounding are so bad they are putting pressure on our defense."
Akognon was the Titans' offense early in the first half, scoring 11 of their first 13 points over the first 11 minutes as Fullerton trailed, 17-13. It was still a 4-point game at 28-24 before the Gaels closed with an 8-4 rush. Akognon had 16 points but his teammates had only 12 as Saint Mary's took 50 shots because of the dominance on the glass, hitting only 16.
"We were just jumping for the ball today and not blocking out," said Lassiter, who missed Sunday's game at Portland State due to a knee injury and played only in the second half Thursday vs. Wake Forest.
The Gaels opened the second half with a 9-2 burst for a 45-30 lead. Fullerton got the margin down to single digits and it was a 9-point game at 52-43 with 14:36 to play. But Mills, the star of Australia's Olympic team, hit his first trey of the tournament after 13 misses to trigger a 14-0 run and the outcome was decided.
Fullerton's 54 points equal the third lowest total in Burton's six-season tenure. The Titans scored 44 at UC Santa Barbara and 49 against Utah State in his first season (2003-04) and had 54 in a 78-54 loss at UCLA on Dec. 5, 2006. The 22-rebound disadvantage was the largest since Wisconsin held a 50-27 edge in last year's NCAA Tournament game.