LONG BEACH, Calif. –Cal State Fullerton worked from behind for most of Saturday's game, but junior forward Kathleen Iwuoha's double-double performance willed the Titans to a 71-55 road victory over rival Long Beach State at The Pyramid.
With the win, Fullerton (11-16, 7-7 Big West) moves into a three-way tie for fifth place with UC Irvine and LBSU. Entering the final week of the regular season, the Titans will face UC Irvine on Thursday and Hawai'i on Saturday as it looks to improve its seed heading into the Big West tournament. Fullerton also learned on Saturday that they can finish no worse than seventh after UC Davis defeated UC Santa Barbara earlier in the day.
Meanwhile, Long Beach State falls to 15-13 overall on the year and 7-7 in Big West play. The 49ers enter the final week on a two-game losing streak with matchups against Cal State Northridge and UC Riverside looming.
Iwuoha led all scorers with a career high 25 points and grabbed a game high 12 rebounds, while senior guard Alex Thomas contributed 18 points. Freshman Samantha Logan poured in 14 points, while Chante Miles added 10 points in the winning effort.
The 49ers were led by Hallie Meneses who scored 12 points, while grabbing five rebounds and Alex Sanchez who recorded 10 points off the bench.
Fullerton trailed by as many as 11 in the first half after a 6:15 field goal drought haunted the Titans to begin the game. However, after a 15 minute delay due a ceiling leakage the Titans regained their rhythm and only trailed the 49ers by six, 13-7 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the opening half.
After a Thomas jumper got the Titans back on the scoreboard to end the drought, LBSU quickly extended its lead back to double-digits, but back-to-back baskets by Iwuoha and a Logan three-pointer cut the 49er lead back down to three. Despite shooting just 30.8 percent in the first half, Fullerton trailed by just seven 32-25 at the half.
In the second half, Fullerton came out yearning to put pressure on the 49ers as multiple defense stops and five straight points by Iwuoha pulled the Titans within four, 38-34 with just under 16 minutes remaining.
After a 5-0 LBSU runm which brought their lead back to eight, Fullerton answered with a 9-0 run of its own and found themselves trailing by just one, 44-43, with 10:06 to play. The Titans were then finally able to grab its first lead of the game, 54-51, as Thomas connected on a corner trey.
From that point on it was all Fullerton as another Thomas three-pointer gave Fullerton a nine-point advantage with 2:14 left.
The Titans finished the night shooting 39.6 percent from the field and 33 percent from behind the arc, while the 49ers finished shooting 37.7 percent. Fullerton also out rebounded LBSU 40-38.
The Titans continue its three-game road swing at UC Irvine next Thursday, March 6 at 7 pm before returning to Titan Gym to face Hawai'i on Saturday, March 8. Fullerton will also honor its three seniors (Alex Thomas, Mya Olivier, Brianna Barfield) on Saturday against the Rainbow Wahine.
Notes: Saturday's meeting marked the 78th meeting between the two programs… Fullerton moves to 35-63 all-time against Long Beach State and is now 15-43 against the 49ers in Big West play… The Titans are now 12-31 at the Pyramid… CSF is now 5-0 when scoring at least 70 points and 5-1 when at least four players are in double figures.
Head Coach Daron Park
"I'm really proud of our team, it's a gutsy road win and we talk about the value of winning on the road especially after not playing great against CSUN. To also avenge a loss against a team that handed it to us at home the first time is really gratifying and I'm really happy for our kids".
Message to team at Halftime
"We talked about staying confident and staying aggressive. We wanted to change the tempo in the second half and we knew that they would be tired and we would be also, but the kids jumped into it right away and with us getting some stops early it really fueled us".
"She's a huge part of what we're doing like everybody else and yesterday we talked about having an inside presence with these guys. The last time we shot way too many threes and this time we made an effort to get her the ball and she responded. Some nights its Alex, some nights it's Chante, but tonight it was Kats and to see us have four consistent starters tonight it shows how tough of a team we can be".