FULLERTON, Calif.— At the end of the day it was UC Riverside taking home a 64-45 victory over Cal State Fullerton Saturday afternoon at Titan Gym. But for the Titans and the Fullerton community, the day had far greater meaning than just another basketball game.
Tears were shed and hugs were embraced as the Titans played their first game without assistant coach Monica Quan's reassuring presence on the sideline.
"My kids played their hearts out today," said head coach Marcia Foster. "It was really hard to get out there because a part of our family was missing."
After an emotional moment of silence before the national anthem, it was finally time for basketball.
The day's emotions visibly affected both sides early on, as both teams went a combined 0-for-8 from the field to start before UC Riverside's Tre'Shonti Nottingham opened things up with a lay-up at the 17:59 mark of the first half.
Nottingham went on to score 12 of UCR's 30 first half points, as she eventually ended up with a game-high 23 for the afternoon.
The Highlanders led wire-to-wire, but Fullerton was able to keep things close in the first half, thanks to Annie Park's three first half treys. Park ended up pouring in a career-high 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting from three-point land for the game.
Despite shooting under 26 percent for the first half, the Titans trailed UC Riverside just 30-24 at the midway point.
The Highlanders came out in the second half looking to finish the Titans off for good, after Nottingham pulled up and connected on a long trey to put UC Riverside up 39-27 with 15:12 to play.
But, Fullerton refused to give in, as the Titans outscored UCR 10-4 over the next three-plus minutes to cut the UC Riverside lead to 43-37, after Park nailed one of her five three-pointers with 12:12 left to play.
However, the Titans were unable to sustain the offense for much longer, as the Highlanders outscored Fullerton 21-8 the rest of the way.
For just the sixth time this season, Fullerton lost the turnover battle, as it had 22 giveaways compared to UCR's 11.
The loss was Fullerton's sixth straight defeat as it falls to 7-15 overall and 3-7 in Big West play. The Titans will aim to snap out of their funk next Thursday at 7 p.m. when Long Beach State visits Titan Gym.