FULLERTON, Calif— Guards Alex Thomas and Annie Park stepped up in a big way Thursday night, combining to score 31 points on 13-of-24 shooting to lead Cal State Fullerton to a convincing 65-51 win over UC Irvine at Titan Gym.
The Titans (7-9, 3-1 Big West) have caught fire, posting wins in five of their last six games, as they're off to their best four-game conference start since the 2009-10 season where Fullerton began 4-0. For UC Irvine (4-13, 0-5 Big West), it's now its fifth loss in a row.
Thomas poured in a career-high 18 points on 8-of-16 shooting, while dishing out two assists. Park, had her best game as a Titan in her first career start, as she filled in for the injured Chante Miles. She set new career highs in points, field goals made, three-pointers made, rebounds, and assists, as she scored 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Kathleen Iwuoha nearly had herself a double-double, as she scored eight points and pulled down eight rebounds in the win.
Camille Buckley paced the Anteaters, scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds for her fifth double-double of the season. Jasmine Bernard also had a solid game, as she recorded 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting, while grabbing nine rebounds in the loss.
Things were tight early, as no team owned more than a five-point lead for the first 14-plus minutes of the game.
The Titans actually trailed 18-17 with eight minutes to play in the first half, but Fullerton quickly clamped down defensively and held UC Irvine without a field goal for six-plus minutes, helping to jumpstart a 9-2 run, which gave Fullerton a 26-20 advantage with 1:40 to play in the first half.
The Titans were able to take a 30-26 lead into halftime, surviving a well contested half that featured nine lead changes and two ties.
Fullerton shot a solid 13-of-31 (41.9 percent) from the field in the first half, and it only got better from there, as Park nailed a three from the top of the key to open up the second half to keep the momentum rolling.
The Titans connected on three of their first four second-half shot attempts, to spur an impressive 14-4 run over the first five-plus minutes of the second half.
This set the tone for the rest of the game, as Fullerton eventually built their lead to as high as 54-34 after Lauren Bushong banked in a lay-up with 9:13 left to play.
UCI never got closer than 12 points, as it connected on just 9-of-32 second-half shot attempts compared to hitting 10-of-24 in the first half.
The Titans finished the game shooting 28-for-61 from the field for 45.9 percent, which was their second-best shooting percentage of the season.
Fullerton continues its conference slate this Saturday, as it travels up the freeway to take on Long Beach State at 4 p.m. in Walter Pyramid.