FULLERTON — The Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton men’s basketball teams looked back in awe at each other’s non-conference performances.
Those mutual expressions came to an end Thursday night at Titan Gym.
Long Beach State pulled away down the stretch to secure an 81-71 victory over Fullerton in the Big West Conference opener for both teams.
“It’s a rivalry game,” Long Beach coach Dan Monson said. “It’s the league opener where everyone is 0-0 and you know it’s going to be a dogfight.”
Aboubacar Traoré had 23 points and 22 rebounds, Marcus Tsohonis scored 17 points off the bench and Lassina Traoré finished with 16 points and 17 rebounds for Long Beach (9-4 overall, 1-0 Big West), which won six games in one match. row.
Max Jones scored 18 points and DJ Brewton also finished with 18 for Fullerton (7-5, 0-1).
Both teams took double-digit leads in the first half before Long Beach took a 38-32 lead into the break.
The Titans immediately began to chip away at the deficit, as John Mikey Square scored inside on Fullerton’s first possession of the second half and Tory San Antonio later scored a 3-pointer to make it 40-37.
“I really thought we lost our motivation early in the second half,” Monson said. “Our guys were walking around a little bit and I thought our bench and everyone really picked them up.”
Max Jones made another 3-pointer to make it a one-point game and he hit another from behind the arc 52 seconds later to put the Titans within 46-45 with 15:18 to play.
Donovan Oday made two free throws to put the Titans up five points and they led by six with 11:11 left before LBSU made a comeback.
Aboubacar Traore, who also had six assists, made a missed free throw to put Long Beach ahead 64-59 with 4:02 left. He then dunk a missed jumper by Tsohonis to make it 66-59 with 3:36 to play and Fullerton never got closer than six points the rest of the game.
“Welcome to Big West play,” Fullerton coach Dedrique Taylor said. “You have to play 40 minutes.
“We were playing well and we were sharing the basketball, defending with an edge and then all of a sudden Long Beach State, thanks to them, they threw a zone on us. We started to stand and it affected us offensively and defensively.
Both teams looked rusty after a bye week and missed six of nine free throws in the first 5 1/2 minutes.
Long Beach also put itself in a hole early by committing the first seven turnovers of the game to fall behind 16-8.
Jones converted a three-point play to give the Titans their largest lead at 21-11 with 9:50 left in the first half.
Fullerton then started to get sloppy with the basketball and Tsohonis scored a turnover to cap a 6-0 run and bring Long Beach within four points.
Jadon Jones (11 points) scored a 3-pointer in transition after another giveaway to cut the deficit to 23-22 and LBSU took its first lead on the next possession on an Aboubacar Traore layup with 5:44 to play at halftime.
Lassina Traore continued the 15-2 run with two free throws to extend the lead to 26-23 and he gave Long Beach its first double-digit lead with another inside basket to make it 38-27 with 1:02 left before halftime.
Grayson Carper made a 3-pointer for the Titans after missing seven straight from long range to cut the lead to 38-30.
“Defensively, they split us up and we got back in the zone and packed it up and were able to regain control, but it was back and forth,” Monson said.
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