Feb. 26, 2009
FULLERTON, CA - Cal State Fullerton freshman Megan Richardson scored 18 of her game-high 21 points in the second half, but a furious second half rally by the Titans fell just short as UC Riverside escaped with a 65-55 Big West Conference victory on an emotional Thursday night at Titan Gym.
Thursday night not only marked the final home appearance for Fullerton's two seniors - Toni Thomas and Daviyonne Weathersby - but was the final home appearance for Head Coach Dr. Maryalyce Jeremiah, who is stepping aside at the end of the year following 13 seasons as head coach of the Titans.
Fullerton (7-18 overall, 4-10 in the Big West) trailed by as many as 26 points with just over a minute gone in the second half. After trading three-pointers and jumpers over the next three minutes, Fullerton's offense caught fire, exploding for a 19-3 run to cut the deficit to just 10 points with 5:56 remaining.
Richardson, who scored nine points during that run, then closed the gap to single digits with back-to-back three-pointers (two of her career-high five on the night) to make it an eight-point game at 60-52 with 1:38 to play.
A pair of free throws by UCR's Alyssa Morris made it a 10-point game once again, but Richardson and the Titans fired back as the freshman hit another three-pointer to make it 62-55 with just under a minute to play.
The Highlanders (17-9, 12-1) held off the rally, but made it interesting, hitting just 3-of-5 from the free throw line down the stretch while Fullerton struggled to zero in, missing four three-pointers in the final 48 seconds to close out the game.
Richardson was the only Titan to finish in double figures as leading scorer Toni Thomas was held to just four points and four rebounds while playing in only 16 minutes due to illness. Sophomore Lyndsey Grove led a balanced scoresheet with eight points as eight of the 10 Fullerton players who entered the game scored.
Senior Kemie Nkele had 21 points and eight rebounds to lead UC Riverside, which jumped out to a 10-2 lead to open the game and led by 12 points halfway through the first half. A 15-0 run midway through the period extended the Highlanders' lead to 21 points with just over five minutes to play as they led by as many as 25 points en route to a 44-20 halftime advantage.
Seyram Gbewonyo finished with 17 points for UCR which also got double-figure scoring from Roney Friend, who finished with 10 points.
The Highlanders shot 49 percent from the floor for the game, but struggled in the second half, making only six baskets and shooting 30 percent after a first period that saw them hit on 64 percent from the field.
The Titans finished shooting 31 percent for the game and outrebounded UC Riverside, 39-32, on the night.
Cal State Fullerton closes out its week on the road, travelling to long-time rival Long Beach State on Saturday (Feb. 28) for a 5 p.m. tip at the Walter Pyramid. The Titans then head south to take on UC Irvine on March 7 to conclude the regular season.