Big West Tournament takes center stage

College basketball’s regular season has come to a close. March has arrived and it means the madness is about to begin. Before the selection committee locks in their final picks for the field of 68, conference championship tournaments take center stage this week, as many power five institutions vie for their respective automatic qualifiers.

Many west coast conferences such as the Big West, Pac 12, Mountain West, and the West Coast Conference have taken over the scene in Las Vegas to compete for the title of conference champion. Here’s a roundup of all the action from the week thus far at the 2021 Big West Conference Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships, presented by Hawai’i Tourism Authority.

Big West:

Cal State Fullerton (Men)

After a 6-10 season, the Titans’ men squad came roaring into Las Vegas looking to make some noise and shake up the championship picture. Fullerton entered the tournament as the number seven seed and drew the Mustangs of Cal Poly in a first-round matchup.

The Mustangs came firing out on all cylinders shooting 57% from the field nailing 30 of their 53 shot attempts. Five different SLO players accounted for double-digit scoring. Colby Rogers led the Cal Poly onslaught with 19 points and contributed to a 17-0 scoring run.

The commanding lead of the Mustangs was too much for the Titans to handle. Junior Landon Spivey led all Fullerton scorers with 17 points, while shooting 4 of 11 from three, and successfully making all of his free throws (5/5).

“Cal Poly came out and really established themselves on the offensive end of the floor,” said Dedrique Taylor, CSUF’s head coach. “They did everything that they wanted to do from an execution standpoint.”

Cal State Fullerton forward Kyle Allman was named the Big West Conference Tournament MVP after leading the Titans to a 71-55 win against UC Irvine in the championship game at Honda Center on Saturday, March 10, 2018. Photo by Sammy Saludo for News4usonline

While this loss closes the book on the 2020-21 season, Fullerton expects to return a majority of talent from this year’s team next season, while also having an extra year of eligibility available.

Taylor believes that with the number of familiar faces returning next season, there’s a lot of potential for Titan Basketball to be successful in the future.

“I think it’s super simple, and it might sound crazy, but you know, we’re still here,” Taylor said. “We’re still here, we still have an opportunity. And tonight was one of those chances, and we missed and we didn’t take advantage of it the way we wanted to. But I think we look back and we are appreciative of all that we have been through.”

Cal State Fullerton (Women)

After a 4-18 regular season, the women’s squad at CSUF has been playing for pride. The Titans entered the conference tournament as the ninth seed where they were matched up with the eighth-seeded Highlanders from UC Riverside in the first round.

Despite leading for only a short amount of time, Cal State Fullerton came from behind to hold on in a 55-51 win on Tuesday. The Titans were led by senior forward Joy Krupa who achieved a career-high 16 points on 8 of 17 shooting while also grabbing 15 rebounds.

“This is my season no matter what, I’m just gonna keep playing and trying my hardest and it means a lot to be able to be back on the court and fighting with these girls here,” Krupa said after her performance.

The jubilation of victory was short-lived as Cal State Fullerton had a quick turnaround to face top-seeded UC Davis on Wednesday.  Despite Krupa once again rising to the occasion and knocking in 25 points, the Titans came up short in a 61-54 defeat.

The Titans look to build off the rough edges of this season and begin moving forward in preparing for the 2021-22 season. 

UC Irvine (Men)

Upcoming Game: 3/11 v. Cal Poly SLO (5:00 p.m.) TV: ESPN3

ncaa basketball
UC Davis rallied from 17 points down to beat Hawai’i, 58-50, in the Big West Tournament Championship game. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

UC Irvine (Women)

Following a 13-8 regular season campaign and a second-place finish in the conference standings, the women of UCI earned themselves a second seed in the Big West Tournament in Las Vegas. The Eaters drew the seventh-seeded Gauchos of UC Santa Barbara in the first round.

After fighting back from a 12 point deficit in the first half despite giving up a tournament record 18 3-pointers, Irvine buckled down to hang on to win a 92-90 battle on Wednesday night.

Sophomore Chloe Webb led the charge knocking in 20 points on 6/13 from the field while contributing five assists on eight boards. On the night, the Eaters shot particularly well from the arc nailing 56 percent of their shots, while also knocking down ten three-pointers.

“I’m really proud of my team and the fight they showed today,” said head coach Tamara Inoue. “There were a lot of times where we could have hung our heads because threes are like dunks in the women’s game. To the credit of my team, they kept getting after it and going strong.” 

UCI gets a day to rest and regroup as they prepare to take on sixth-seeded Cal Poly on Friday.

Long Beach State (Men)

After a 6-11 regular season, the boys from ‘The Beach’ go into Michelob Ultra Arena and the Big West Tournament with a chip on their shoulder looking to make a statement.

Long Beach State couldn’t have asked for a better start opening tournament play with an 85-63 blowout win over Cal State Northridge. “The Beach” was led by a spark on offense in Jadon Jones, who has now stepped up following the dismissal of Michael Carter III last week.

Jones scored 19 points on 7/12 shooting from the field while also snagging 11 rebounds on the day. 

“I just wanted it,” Jones said postgame. “I knew we had to come out with energy… We’re not really worried about records or the past. It’s 0-0 and it’s a tournament. We’re just here to win.”

LBSU quickly turns things around and faces regular-season champion and top-seeded UC Santa Barbara tomorrow morning.

Long Beach State (Women)

After finishing the regular season with a 12-9 benchmark, the women of Long Beach State snagged the third seed, had a date set with sixth-seeded Cal Poly on Wednesday from Las Vegas. 

In a prior meeting this season, LBSU lost a heartbreaker to the Mustangs and Wednesday provided deja vu once again.  A game that saw eight ties and 13 lead changes proved to have dramatics as Poly nailed a layup as time expired to narrowly defeat Long Beach 61-60.

“The Beach” had three players score in double figures as redshirt junior Naomi Hunt led all scorers with 14 points on 4/13 shooting.

Long Beach finishes the season with a 12-10 overall record.

Featured image: Since losing four games in December, the USC Trojans have won five of their last six games, including a win against Long Beach State. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline