Titans Pull Off Another Upset; Advance to Big West Semis
IRVINE, Calif— And the Cinderella ride continues, as eighth-seeded Cal State Fullerton advanced to the Big West Tournament semifinals for the first time since the 2008-09 season, after upending three-seeded Hawai'i, 66-51, Wednesday night at the Bren Events Center, in what arguably was the Titans' most impressive performance of the season.
With the win, Fullerton (11-21) has now won back-to-back games for the first time since late February, but most importantly, will now play top-seeded Pacific at the Honda Center at noon Saturday, with a spot in the conference championship game on the line.
The Titans boasted four players in double-figure scoring for just the third time this season, with Mya Olivier leading the bunch, as she put together one of her best games of the season, scoring a season-high 17 points on 6-of-14 shooting in the win. Annie Park also contributed 12 points on a stellar 5-of-6 shooting, including going a perfect 2-of-2 from three-point land. Chante Miles recorded a career-high tying seven steals, while pouring in 13 points. Tailer Butler provided a lift off the bench, as she recorded her first double-digit scoring performance since scoring a career-high 27 points Jan. 2 vs. this very same Hawai'i team, as she scored all 10 of her points in the second half on 4-of-6 shooting from the field.
Kamilah Martin was the only Hawai'i player to reach double-digits in the scoring column, as she put up a team-high 15 points and 13 points in the loss.
Fullerton turned what was a 25-25 game at halftime into one of the most efficient second halves the program has seen in years, as the Titans shot a sizzling 57.1 percent on 12-of-21 shooting for the second half. The 57.1 percent shooting is the highest shooting percentage Fullerton has recorded since it connected for a 60 percent clip during the second half vs. UC Riverside on Jan. 8, 2011.
Despite the hot shooting, the Rainbow Wahine were able to stick around early on in the second half, but soon the Titans spattered off a 14-2 scoring run in just over a three-minute span, to take what was 36-36 ballgame and turn it into a comfortable 50-38 Fullerton lead with 7:08 left to play.
Hawai'i was able to get the game back to as close as 52-45 with 4:04 left to play, after Shawna-Lei Kuehu put in a layup, but the Titans would let it get no closer than that, as Butler came right back and knocked down a contested mid-range jumper on the very next possession, sparking what then turned into a 10-0 Fullerton scoring run.
The Titans built the lead to as high as 18 points, as they knocked down 14-of-18 second half free throws to help seal the deal.
As great as the game ended for Fullerton, it began just as well. After Hawai'i hit its first basket of the game, the Titan defense created numerous turnovers, which led to an 11-0 scoring run, capped off by a Miles steal and score to put the Titans up 11-3 with 12:38 left to play in the half. Fullerton ended up scoring 25 points off of 22 Hawai'i turnovers in the game.
While the game was closely contested most of the way, the lead only changed on three occasions, as the Titans were in control most of the game.
Fullerton's focus now shifts to Friday, as it aims to advance to just its second Big West Championship game in school history.
Game Notes: Titans improve to 6-0 on the season when scoring between 60-70 points...Fullerton improves to 2-0 all-time vs. Hawai'i in Big West Tournament play...Tonight was the most points Fullerton has scored since the Titans put up 83 points vs. Hawai'i on Jan. 3, 2013 in the conference opener (20 games ago).