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BIG WEST MEN'S TOURNAMENT

Santa Barbara beats Fullerton, 73-64

Gauchos hold Titan powerhouse Josh Akognon to 23 in a quarterfinal.

March 13, 2009|Robyn Norwood

A night after the Josh Akognon Show at the Big West Conference tournament, UC Santa Barbara didn't want to see a repeat of the Cal State Fullerton star's 37-point performance.

The Gauchos already had caught his act in Titan Gym in February, anyway: That night, he scored 29 and brought Fullerton from 22 points behind to win.

This time, Santa Barbara did what amounts to holding Akognon down. He finished with 23 in a 73-64 loss to the Gauchos on Thursday in a tournament quarterfinal at the Anaheim Convention Center.

The score was tied, 57-57, with four minutes left, but fourth-seeded Santa Barbara went on an 8-0 run that started when Sam Phippen scored inside and Chris Devine made one of two free throws. Will Brew made a three-pointer and Devine added another basket to give Santa Barbara an eight-point lead with less than a minute to play.

Akognon drove the lane and added a free throw after he was fouled to cut it to five with 46 seconds left, but Fullerton got no closer.

Santa Barbara (16-14) opened the game with Paul Roemer defending Akognon, usually with an arm against his chest. But the Gauchos kept shifting fresh defenders and employed a zone, and Akognon didn't score his first basket, a three-pointer, until midway through the first half.

"All of our attention was on him," Santa Barbara Coach Bob Williams said. "How good is he?"

By halftime, Akognon had only five points. His teammates weren't able to pick up the slack, and the seventh-seeded Titans (15-17) shot 25% in the half.

But Akognon was electric at the start of the second half. He scored on a little runner on the first possession, then came back down and forced up a crazily off-balance three that was nothing but net. He finished with four threes and made six of 16 shots overall.

A senior who played only two seasons after transferring from Washington State, Akognon is seventh on the Titans' career scoring list. He broke Leon Wood's single-season school scoring record Wednesday, and has 764 points.James Nunnally scored 15 for the Gauchos and was one of five Santa Barbara players in double figures.

Pacific 67, UC Davis 60 -- The third-seeded Tigers (18-11) held off the eighth-seeded Aggies behind sixth-man Bryan LeDuc's 15 second-half points. LeDuc broke a 46-46 tie with a steal and dunk with 7:23 to play and scored Pacific's next nine points. Dominic Calegari led Davis (13-19) with 17.

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robynnorwood@verizon.net

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