FULLERTON, Calif.- Senior guard Alex Thomas scored 15 of her career-high 24 points in the second half, including a go-ahead three-pointer with just over a minute to play as Cal State Fullerton came back from an 18-point deficit at halftime to defeat UC Riverside on Thursday night at Titan Gym.
Fullerton (8-12, 4-3 Big West), looked as though they were about to get run of the gym after shooting a season-low 24 percent in the first half, rallied after UC Riverside (4-17, 0-8 Big West) grabbed its largest lead of the game of 18, 36-18, at the half. As the second half got underway the Titans took over, outscoring the Highlanders 42-21 over the duration of the game behind 44.1 percent second-half shooting, including four three-pointers, while holding UCR to 32.1 percent shooting in the second stanza, including 2-of-9 from behind the arc.
Thomas finished 9-of-19 from the field to pour in a career-high 24 points, including five rebounds and Kathleen Iwuoha contributed her fourth double double of the season after scoring 18 points and grabbing 11 rebounds to help the Titans rally back. The Titans outrebounded the Highlanders 47-29, including 18 offensive rebounds, which led to 12 second-chance points.
UC Riverside had four players in double figures as Simone DeCoud led the way with 16 points and six rebounds, while Akilah Martin chipped in 13 points off the bench.
The Titans fell behind early in the game as the Highlanders jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first three minutes behind five quick points from DeCoud. UCR then extended their lead to 16, 24-8, over the next nine minutes after forcing seven Fullerton turnovers, which led to 26 first-half points.
Over the next six minutes, the Titans pull within 11 points, but quickly the Highlanders would answer back and brought their lead back to 16 with less than two minutes to play in the half. After shooting a season-low 24 percent in the first half, the Titans trailed heading into intermission 36-18.
However, coming out of halftime Fullerton started the second half on a 7-0 run to pull back within 11, 36-25 with 17:54 left to play. The Titans continued their hot second half star to pull within five, 45-40, as Iwuoha drove to the hoop for an easy basket. With 4:31 remaining UCR wouldn't let Fullerton overtake the lead for good as Brittany Crain knocked down a three-pointer to stay ahead by six.
After a five consecutive points from Thomas to bring the Titans within one with just over two minutes left the senior guard knocked down a three-pointer to give Fullerton its first lead of the night 59-57 with 1:09 remaining. After a Tailer Butler free throw, UCR's Martin gave it one final heave with 6.9 seconds left but the shot was long giving the Titans the victory.
Fullerton concludes its three-game home stand Saturday, February 8 against Cal State Northridge at 6 p.m. as the Titans host their annual pink game. The Titans and the "Play 4 Kay" foundation have teamed up to help fight the battle against breast cancer. Fans can donate via at the game or http://play4kay.org/WBBTitans. Head Coach Daron Park will also hold a post game reception, giving fans an opportunity to ask questions and interact with the staff and players. Fans can also upgrade their seats to courtside seats for $50, which will be donated to the Kay Yow Fund. Players will also be wearing designed pink day warm-up shirts that will be available for purchase after the game.
Notes: Tonight's meeting marks the 45th all-time meeting between the two schools…Riverside still leads the all-time series 22-23…Fullerton is now 9-17 against the Highlanders in Big West play…The Titans also defeated the Highlanders on Jan. 9, 82-78, in Riverside, Calif…the Titans are now 11-9 all-time at Titan Gym versus UCR… Fullerton has won the last four of five contests…the win signifies the first time since 2005-06 that the Titans have defeated the Highlanders both times in the regular season…the Titans pick up their third win of the season after trailing at the half (3-11).
Head Coach Daron Park
Opening Statement Coach
"What a unbelievable second half of college basketball, this is an amazing group of young ladies. As forgettable the first 20 minutes were, the second 20 were amazing. We challenged them at half time, and they responded. They played as about as perfect as a half ofbasketball they could play on both ends of the floor to get the win. We talk about the process, we say things as resolve, we talk about discipline, we talk about shot selection, shot distribution, and shot allocation. We talk aboutunderstanding how to be successful, and tonight you saw this team do that. I have never, in a lot of years and won a lot of games. I have never been more proud of a group of individuals than I was tonight."
"It was a concerted effort, we had to look at what we could do if weren't making shots. You know we love shooting the three, every single person on this team and in this program has a green light, with thatbeing said there are times they do not fall. When they don't fall, we still have to make sure be have an inside presence. So we talked all week about being an inside-out team. We challenged Kat, Kat had an unbelievable three days of practice leading up leading up to this and I thought you saw it carry over. It is such a great example of you practice how you play. To Kat's credit the past three practices, she has been sensational. It was no secret, we knew she would have a great game and we knew we would have an inside presence and we did."
Senior Guard Alex Thomas
On Performance and Clutch Three-Pointer
"I tried not to think too much out when we are out there. It's nothing that I haven't done in practice. It came easy, Kat was able to get me the ball in the right spot at the right time. So we were able so we wereable to get that shot up."
Junior Forward Kathleen Iwuoha
On Staying Out of Foul Trouble and Guarding Opponents