Cal State Fullerton edges Pepperdine late

The Titans were led by Jalen Harris who finished with 27 points, his highest scoring output since he arrived at Cal State Fullerton.

In the first meeting between the two schools since 2016, Cal State Fullerton men’s basketball edged Pepperdine, 74-71, after three straight stops in the final minute of the game Friday night in Titan Gym.

The Titans were led by Jalen Harris who finished with 27 points, his highest scoring output since he arrived at CSUF in 2020, to go along with three rebounds and a pair of assists. 

Fullerton’s Vince Lee nearly had a double-double with 12 points and 9 rebounds and served as the anchor on defense for the Titans. 

Pepperdine was led by Maxwell Lewis and Mike Mitchell Jr. who had 15 points each. Lewis stuffed the stat sheet with nine rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block to go with his team-leading scoring effort.

Jevon Porter, the younger brother of Denver Nuggets’ star Michael Porter Jr., had a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards for the Waves.

“This is a heck of a win for this ball-club,” said CSUF head coach Dedrique Taylor after the victory. “These guys stepped up in a major way from a defensive standpoint and really helped each other out.”

The Titans bounced back from their 80-57 loss to No. 19 San Diego State earlier this week, but Harris said the energy around the team following the loss helped his game Friday night.

“After losing on Monday my teammates really uplifted me and gave me the confidence to come out here and play like I did tonight. They did a good job of finding me and I did a good job finishing so, credit to my teammates,” Harris said. 

For the Waves, the loss extends their road losing streak to 14 games after not winning any away games last season. Pepperdine has failed to win a game on the road since February, 2020. 

In the first half, both squads traded baskets and kept the score close throughout, Harris set up Lee with a nice finish under the basket to tie the score at 37 apiece heading into the break.

Fullerton led for a majority of the second half after stretching the lead to seven early in the period thanks to a pair of 3-pointers from Harris.

However, Pepperdine would not bow out easily, after Mitchell completed a four-point play with just over 12 minutes to play, it looked like the momentum was about to swing.

The two teams would then go on to trade baskets for the final minutes of the second half until the closing moments of the game.

Harris was fouled and made a pair of free throws to give the Titans a 72-69 lead with less than two minutes to go.

Lewis would come down on the other end and hit a turnaround jumper for the Waves to cut into Fullerton’s lead and make the score 72-71. 

On the ensuing possession, Pepperdine’s Boubacar Coulibaly blocked a shot-attempt by Harris, marking the USC transfer’s fourth of the night with just over a minute left. 

After CSUF failed to convert on their second chance of that possession, the Titans defense was able to get the first of three crucial stops in the final minute of the game. 

Latrell Wrightsell Jr. then missed his free throw attempt and Pepperdine came down the floor with another chance to take the lead, Vincent Lee had a crucial contest of a Mitchell jumpshot that fell short with less than 30 seconds to play.

Harris would knock down both of his free-throw attempts to extend the CSUF lead to 74-71 with 7.2 seconds left, prompting a Pepperdine timeout before their last chance to send the game to overtime.

On Pepperdine’s final play of the game Houston Mallette took the ball and took a few dribbles before he threw up a prayer from 30-feet out with time still left on the clock, sealing the first victory of the season for Fullerton.

Next up, Cal State Fullerton will host Vermont on Sunday at 5:00 p.m. Pepperdine will return home to face Alabama State on Sunday at 2:00 p.m.

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