Gone are the days of Saturday afternoons watching Duke battle North Carolina on your couch or battling Los Angeles traffic to go to Westwood and drop a hundred bucks to be a UCLA band-wagoner for a day.
Some of the best basketball in the country is played right here in our backyard. I'm not talking about watching some freshmen-phenoms build up their resume for the NBA. These are hard-working upperclassmen, playing team-oriented style of basketball to earn the right to represent the Big West in the NCAA tournament.
With a clinching win against UC Irvine, the Cal State Fullerton men's basketball team earned a three-way share of the Big West championship along with UC Santa Barbara and Cal State Northridge.
The win at a hostile Bren Events Center last Saturday rivals any big college game across the country, even the Bruins biased officiating game against Cal.
The Titans didn't rely on an illegal backboard shot in the closing seconds as the Bruins did. They relied on their seniors and played some tough defense.
Josh Akagnon continued his stellar regular-season play and led the way with 15 points and six rebounds Saturday, while seniors Frank Robinson and Scott Cutley solidified a tough defensive presence in the paint.
Robinson scored 14 points in 35 minutes and Cutley added nine points of his own. But more importantly, other players are peaking at the right time for the Titans. Ray Reed scored 12 points, grabbed three rebounds, dished out three assists, and had two steals. Marcus Crenshaw came off the bench to add 10 points as well.
Out of all the teams in the Big West, none can compare to the Titans size and experience. This will prove crucial not only in the Big West tournament, but in the NCAA tournament, which is well within their reach. The winner of the Big West tournament will earn an automatic bid to play in the NCAA tournament.
What took place Saturday in Irvine wasn't just a basketball game, a win, or a conference title. It was sweet, sweet redemption.
The win snapped the Anteaters 11-game home winning streak and more importantly it avenged the loss the Titan baseball team experienced in Omaha, Nebraska this past summer.
For some reason, UC Irvine supporters believe that they are equals when it comes to sports with Fullerton.
I was there in Omaha this summer. I heard it from them myself. From the guy I ran into at the airport, to hundreds of supporters packing the cozy corner white-picket fenced-rented house, Fullerton's time has come and it is time for the sloth-like anteaters to reign.
Anteater nation blushed at their then disposition of being the Cinderella team of the College World Series and Titan supporters tolerated their slow and methodical chants of Go...Eaters!
More disturbingly, they had a concensus that because they are a UC school, that they fit the bill as the Orange County powerhouse. Our four baseball titles and numerous conference titles in other sports didn't matter to them. They looked down at our Cal State status, a feeling also shared outside of sports.
But sports has a way of uniting people together, and this year's men's basketball team did just that. They embodied class, determination and a hard-work ethic. They went on to defeat them in their most unbeatable place.
Battle tested and prepared for the next round, the focus now shifts to Anaheim and the Big West tournament where these Titans are on a mission to paint the county its true original color.
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