FULLERTON, Calif. - Cal State Fullerton junior Chante Miles initiated a foul with .2 seconds left and calmly sank three free throws as the Titans' late game heroics propelled them over Cal Poly, 78-77, at Titan Gym on Thursday night.
The win improved Fullerton to 10-14 overall and 6-5 in Big West conference play and also snaps a nine-game losing streak against the Mustangs, but more importantly the Titans are now in sole possession of fifth place and trail Long Beach State by a half a game. Miles finished with a career-high 26 points on 7-of-14 shooting, while senior guard Alex Thomas scored 16 points, grabbed six rebounds, and dished out four assists.
Without junior forward Kathleen Iwuoha, who missed the game with an injury, freshman Samantha Logan was a difference maker in the paint as the Corona, Calif., native chipped in 13 points, a game-high nine rebounds, and held reigning Big West Player of the Year Molly Schlemer to four points on the night.
Cal Poly, paced by a career-high 20 points from Nwamaka Ofodu, fell to 14-11 overall and suffered its third consecutive Big West loss (8-4). Junior guard Kristen Ale added 15 points off the bench for the Mustangs, while Jonae Ervin registered a double double of 10 points and 10 assists in the loss.
With 3.1 seconds remaining following a pair of free throws by Ariana Elegado and three consecutive timeouts, the Titans had the ball out of bounds with one last chance when Miles was fouled by Ervin on a three-pointer attempt, sending the junior to the line for three. Miles, a 74 percent shooter from the line on the year, sank all three and the Mustangs missed a full-court heave at the buzzer to give the Titans the victory.
The Titans and Mustangs battled back and forth to start the game as six Titans scored in the first seven minutes, while Ofodu led Cal Poly as she scored the first 16 of their 23 point and they held a 23-21 advantage with 10:22 left to play in the opening half. The Mustangs then broke out the game with a 7-0 run to extend their lead to 32-23 after the under eight minute media timeout.
However, the Titans wouldn't go away so easy as five straight points from Thomas cut the lead down to four, 32-28 with 3:47 left to play in the first half. Despite the Mustangs shooting 51.5 percent in the first half, Fullerton was able to keep pace behind 13 Miles' points and 10 from Thomas, and headed into intermission trailing 43-38. Cal Poly connected on seven first-half three-pointers including four from Ofudo who finished the half with 18 points.
The Titans came out the break firing, scoring the first eight of 11 points of the second half to tie the up game at 46 with 15:21 remaining. Fullerton then possessed its first lead, 48-46, since the first five minutes of the opening stanza after a Miles' layup.
Over the next six minutes Cal Poly went back on top, 59-53, but back-to-back three pointers by Logan and Hailey King knotted the game up at 59 with 7:34 remaining. Two-minutes later the Mustangs went back on top, but Tailer Butler answered back with a three-pointer to even the game at 66.
Fullerton then gained a five-point advantage, 74-69, after four straight points from Miles, but Elegado converted a corner trey on the next possession with 1:05 left to pull Cal Poly within two. After a Miles' free throw gave the Titans a three-point advantage, Ale came down the floor and banked a three-pointer to tie the game up at 75 with 35.1 seconds left, and set up the furious finish.
Fullerton finished the night shooting 42.6 percent from the floor and hitting 11-of-27 from behind the arc, while Cal Poly shot 43.1 percent for the game, including 12 three-pointers.
The Titans close out their Big West homestand this Saturday at Titan Gym against UC Santa Barbara at 6 p.m.
Notes: Tonight's meeting marks the 50th meeting all-time between the two schools… With the win the Fullerton holds a 26-24 in the all-time series over Cal Poly… Fullerton is now 17-7 all-time at Titan Gym and is now 14-20 against Cal Poly in Big West play… The Titans last win against the Mustangs came on Feb. 25, 2010… Natalie Williams made her first start since Dec. 4 versus San Diego…Fullerton picks up its fifth win on the season when trailing at the half…the win also marks the 200th Big West Victory in the program.
Head Coach Daron Park
"Thank you all for being here, what an amazing, exciting Big West conference game. It's crazy, it seems like every game has come down to one possession or two possessions. We certainly have been on the other end before, but really proud of our team. I am really proud of the effort, really proud of our energy and enthusiasm. I felt like we came to compete tonight for 40 minutes and I thought our kids executed tremendously offensively and defensively all the way to the last play. So tremendously proud, I think this is a great win for the kids, very happy for them. We are very excited for our next challenge, which is against UCSB on Saturday."
"It changed a little bit towards the end of the 1st half. The game plan was similar to what we did at their place, they have three tremendous players and so we were going to make four and five make shots. To open the game they did, and they shot with confidence and they were ready for that. We made a little adjustment mid way through the 1st half to try to limit that a little bit. The 2nd half we basically went back to our game plan. Basically, trusting that sooner or later the big three for them we going to try to take the game on their shoulders. They did and we were able to get some stops and some key rebounds down the stretch."
On Last Second Heroics
On Message to Team and Without Playing Tonight with Iwuoha