Titans are Co-Big West Champs

The Cal State Fullerton men's basketball team won a share of the Big West Conference regular season title, its first in 32 years, by defeating UC Irvine 74-66 at the Bren Center on Saturday night.

Josh Akognon led four Titans in double figures with 15 points to hand the Anteaters (15-15, 9-7) their first home loss of the year.

Due to a tiebreaker rule, the Titans (21-8, 12-4) will enter the Big West Tournament in the third seed and with a first-round bye, behind Cal State Northridge and UC Santa Barbara. The 21 wins by the Titans also tied a regular season record previously held by the 1982-83 team. The only other conference title in school history was also shared in the 1976 season.

Despite sharing the honors three ways, CSUF Head Coach Bob Burton said winning the conference title was still incredible.

"I wouldn't care if we shared it with 10 teams," Burton said. "I think for us, this is terrific to actually end up in first place. This is one of the [biggest] highlights since I've been at Cal State Fullerton."

A major factor in the win was the Titans defense, which set the tone early in the game by forcing UCI to miss 11 of their first 12 shots.

"Our kids played great defense the whole game and never took a play off," Burton said. "The key guy was Scott Cutley because he guards Darren Fells really well and Frank Robinson did a very good job on Patrick Sanders."

The duo was able to hold UCI's top two scorers to 10-for-25 shooting. Cutley said after the game that he focused his energy on the defensive end of the floor.

"[Burton] challenged me today to guard Fells and make it tough for him. I wasn't worried with scoring, other people were getting it done," Cutley said.

Fells said the Anteaters were too passive on the offensive end and Cutley's strength on the defensive end forced him to take bad shots.

Cutley's all-around play has garnered him Big West Conference Most Valuable Player consideration all season. The senior averages 16 points, eight rebounds and three assists per game in conference play.

"If you ask everyone in the league who they don't want to play against, they say Scott [Cutley]," Burton said.

Senior Frank Robinson had another solid game, finishing with 14 points and six rebounds. He said the Titans' defense was responsible for stopping UCI's home winning streak.

"[The key was] stopping Fells and containing Sanders," Robinson said. "We thought if we held them down defensively, then we should be good."

With a rebound in the first minute of the game, Robinson became the 10th player in CSUF history to reach 1,000 points and 500 rebounds and the first since Pape Sow during the 2002-04 seasons. The guard now has 1,104 points and 505 rebounds in three seasons with the Titans.

"It's crazy," Robinson said. "To get in the record books and have the conference championship in the same game - it feels so good - and I'm just so happy for everyone right now."

The Titans now shift their focus to the Big West Tournament next week at the Anaheim Convention Center. They will face the lowest remaining seed in the tournament on Thursday at 6 p.m. and UCI will play No. 8 seed Long Beach State on Wednesday.

"Now it's time to get that conference tournament title," Robinson said. "We're going one game at a time, [we're going to] play hard and if everyone brings it, we should be OK."

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