LONG BEACH, Calif. – Cal State Fullerton gave Long Beach State all it could handle Tuesday night, but the 49ers were able to pull away late and secure a 64-60 victory at the Pyramid in the first round of the Big West Tournament.
Fullerton finishes the year with an overall record of 12-18 and 8-8 in the Big West in head coach Daron Park's first season. Under Park, the Titans recorded their most wins and conference wins in a season since 2009-10 when Fullerton finished 15-17 overall and 8-8 in the conference.
For Long Beach State (17-14) junior Lauren Spargo led all scorers with 19 points off 5-of-10 shooting from the field, including four three-pointers. The 49ers also got production from junior Ella Clark, who added 15 points and nine rebounds and freshman Raven Benton who chipped in 10 points.
With just over six minutes left to play and the Titans trailing by six, 50-44, Fullerton came out of a timeout and switched to a press, which quickly produced five straight points, 50-49. After tieing the game at 52, the Titans took the lead 56-55 with 3:22 left after back-to-back baskets by Iwuoha, but after a few baskets by each team the 49ers were able to grab the lead for good as Spargo was fouled on a three-pointer attempt by Tailer Butler with 1:39 left.
The Santa Clarita. Calif., native connected on all three free throws and with 20 seconds remaining and trailing by two, 62-60, Miles drove to the lane, but LBSU's Jade Wilson rejected her shot, which forced Fullerton to foul Clark.
Clark would then close out the game for the 49ers as she knocked down a pair of free throws to put them ahead by four with eight seconds left.
LBSU jumped out to an early 9-2 advantage to start the game as the Titans struggled from the floor in the first ten minutes of the game (18.8 percent), but Fullerton was able to stay in it, 12-7, as they forced nine turnovers.
The Titans were able to take their first lead of the night, 15-14, after senior Brianna Barfield splashed a three-pointer from the right wing. However, two minutes later with the game locked up at 18, Spargo gave the 49ers broke the tie with back-to-back three-pointers.
Despite a slow start, Fullerton trailed LBSU by only three points, 31-28, due to forcing a first-half season high 16 turnovers. Miles led the Titans in the opening half with 10 points.
The Titans finished the night shooting 36.2 percent from the field and 26.9 percent from behind the arc, while LBSU shot 43.1 percent despite 26 turnovers on the night.
Long Beach State advances to play Hawai'i in the quarterfinals at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at the Pyramid in Long Beach, Calif.
Notes: Tonight's meeting marked the 79th meeting all-time between the two programs and the fifth time the schools have met in the Big West tournament… Fullerton moves to 35-64 all-time against Long Beach State and 2-3 against the 49ers in the conference tournament.