IRVINE, Calif.- Cal State Fullerton gave UC Irvine all it could handle Thursday night, but the Anteaters were able to pull away late and secure a 78-72 victory at the Bren Event Center.
The Titans (11-17, 7-8 Big West) have already clinched a spot in next week's Big West tournament and are currently tied for sixth place in the conference race with Long Beach State heading into Saturday's regular season finale versus Hawai'i (6 PT).
Freshman Samantha Logan led the Titans with 21 points off a career-high seven three pointers, while also pulling down nine rebounds. Junior forward Kathleen Iwuoha added 18 points and senior guard Alex Thomas chipped in 16 points in the losing effort.
UC Irvine's (15-14, 8-7 Big West) Camille Buckley was a force in the paint as the senior forward was able to grab 24 rebounds to go along with 19 points. Senior Jennifer Tsurumoto poured in 20 points on 4-of-13 shooting and fellow senior Kelly Megg added 18 points on six three-pointers for the Anteaters.
The Titans and Anteaters changed leads 13 times Thursday night and on five separate occasions the game was tied. However, UC Irvine was able to produce baskets down the stretch and hold on.
The Titans opened the game with a slow start, but a 7-0 run put Fullerton ahead 11-7 with 13:20 remaining in the opening half. After holding a small lead for majority of the first half, with under eight minutes to play, UCI quickly a Buckley basket and Meggs three-pointer put the Anteaters ahead for the rest of the half. Trailing by six points with ten seconds left in the half, Logan knocked down a three-pointer and at the half Fullerton trailed 32-29.
Iwuoha and Logan both added nine points in the first half as Thomas scored eight points as the Titans shot 41.2 percent in the first half. Meggs scored 12 points in the first half after knocking down a perfect 4-for-4 from behind the arc, while Buckley chipped in eight points, but grabbed 16 rebounds.
To open the second half Logan converted two-three pointers, which put Fullerton ahead by two, 35-33, but after numerous lead changes UCI was able to regain the lead with under eight minutes remaining. The Titans saw their final lead of the game with 6:16 left as a jumper by Chante Miles put them ahead, 57-55. However, Meggs answered back with one of her six three-pointers on the night to give the Anteaters the lead back.
With 1:55 left, UCI led 65-63 before a basket by Camille Buckley and a free throw by Jasmine Bernard gave the Anteaters a 68-63 lead with 58 seconds remaining. A three-pointer by Logan narrowed the advantage to 68-66, but the Tsurumoto knocked down two free throws, a layup by Buckley and two more Tsurumoto free throws extended the lead to 74-66 with 20 seconds left. Logan and Brianna Barfield kepy the Titans alive with three-pointers, but after every Fullerton trey, Tsurumoto would hit two more free throws until the last went through the net with 11 ticks remaining.
Fullerton finished the night shooting 40.6 percent from the field compared to UCI who knocked down 45.9 percent of its shots.
The Titans will have to bounce back in the regular season finale against Hawai'i on Saturday, March 8 at 6 p.m. at Titan Gym. Saturday will also be senior night as the Titans will honor Brianna Barfield, Mya Olivier, and Alex Thomas as they play their last game at Titan Gym.
Notes: Thursday's meeting marked the 69th meeting all-time between the two schools… Fullerton moves to 34-35 all-time against UC Irvine and 12-21 at the Brens Event Center… the Titans are now 26-32 all-time against the Anteaters in Big West play…Alex Thomas is now five points away from 1,000 total career points… Camille Buckley's 24 rebounds ties the school record for most allowed to an opponent in a single game.