HONOLULU— Cal State Fullerton gave Hawai'i all it could handle Saturday night at the Stan Sheriff Center, but the Rainbow Wahine scored 35 second-half points on 13-of-28 from the field, as they rallied past the Titans 53-43.
Despite losing its third consecutive game, Fullerton (9-21, 5-13 Big West) was still able to clinch a birth in the Big West Tournament Saturday afternoon, thanks to a UC Santa Barbara win over UC Irvine earlier in the day. The 49-41 loss eliminated the Anteaters from postseason contention, while conversely locking the Titans into the tournament's eighth and final seed because of Fullerton's better head-to-head record vs. UCSB.
The Titans begin their postseason journey Tuesday at the Bren Events Center in Irvine, where it will take on the five-seeded Long Beach State 49ers at 6:00 p.m.
For Hawai'i (17-12, 13-5 Big West), the win marks its third in a row and sixth victory in its last seven games. The win also gives the Rainbow Wahine the number three seed in the Big West Tournament, and even more importantly a first round bye. Their first game will be on Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. against the lowest seed to advance, meaning if the Titans were to win their game on Tuesday, Hawai'i and Fullerton would meet once again Wednesday night.
Mya Olivier nearly collected a double-double for the Titans, as she scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the loss. Chante Miles led Fullerton in scoring, pouring in 12 points, as she recorded her fourth double-digit scoring game in her last five tries. Alex Thomas also scored eight points, going a perfect 4-of-4 from the free throw line on the night.
Kamilah Martin had a dominating performance for Hawai'i, as she led all scorers and rebounders with 18 points and 12 boards on the night. Shawna-Lei Kuehu also put up 10 points and grabbed five rebounds, while Vicky Tagalicod tallied 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting in the winning effort.
Fullerton was able to give a Hawai'i a scare in the first half, as the lead changed four times and was tied on five separate occasions.
The Titans actually took a 22-18 lead into halftime after Brianna Barfield drained a three-pointer from the right side with just 26 second left to play in the half. Fullerton held the Rainbow Wahine to just 7-of-32 from the field and 0-of-9 from three-point land in the first half. The 18 points surrendered up to that point is tied for the least amount of points the Titans have given up in the first half on the road this season.
Unfortunately for Fullerton, there were two halves to play, and Hawai'i took full advantage, as it came out and connected on six of its first seven second-half field goal attempts. The Rainbow Wahine eventually built their lead as high as 51-36 with 2:52 left in the game.
UH also put the clamps on defensively in the second 20 minutes of play, holding Fullerton to just 4-of-23 from the field, as 12 of the Titans' 21 second half points came at the free throw line.
The Titans now head back home to Southern California, where they'll prepare to participate in their 12th consecutive Big West Tournament on Tuesday night vs. Long Beach State.