Despite struggles, Cal State Fullerton women’s basketball could still make the Big West tournament

In Sports
(Katie Albertson / Daily Titan Stock Photo)

With a 1-13 record in conference play and a 4-23 overall record, Cal State Fullerton women’s basketball still has a chance to sneak into the Big West Tournament.

The Titans are last place in the conference but sit just one game out of the eighth and final spot in the tournament with two games remaining on the schedule.

Fullerton hits the road for its last two games of the regular season this week, matching up with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Wednesday night before returning to Orange County to take on UC Irvine Saturday at the Bren Events Center.

CSUF may need to win both of the remaining two games to have a chance of making it in the tournament. However, it ultimately appears that its chances could come down to the final game of the season against UCI, who are seeded eighth in the Big West with a 2-12 conference record.

There are a couple different scenarios for the matchup.

The Anteaters play at UC Santa Barbara (7-7 conference record) Thursday before they host the Titans. If UCI is able to leave Santa Barbara with a victory and Fullerton is unable to get a win over Cal Poly, the Anteaters will extend a two-game lead over the Titans, guaranteeing them a spot in the tournament and leaving CSUF out in the cold.

“At the end of the day, we can only control what we do, and we will work hard to prepare ourselves to compete in both games this week regardless of what the outcome of that game is Thursday,” said Head Coach Daron Park via email.

If both teams win or both teams lose their games prior to Saturday night’s showdown in Irvine, it will come down to the final game of the season to decide who gets the final spot in the Big West Tournament.

In this scenario, if the Titans are able to pick up a win in the final game over UCI, it will lock them in as the eighth seed in the tournament due to CSUF owning the tiebreaker over the Anteaters after having beat them once already this season.

“This is now our postseason and to have an increased sense of urgency for this win-or-go-home moment is critical if we want to play another game,” Park said.  

Fullerton’s 64-53 win over UCI at Titan Gym Jan. 14 is its only conference win of the season and its last victory before going on its current 10-game losing skid.

In the victory, the Titans saw three players score in double figures, led by Iman Lathan’s double-double of 24 points and 10 rebounds in 31 minutes of playing time off the bench.

Lathan is the Titans’ leading scorer and the fourth leading scorer in the Big West. However, Lathan’s scoring output has decreased amid inconsistent minutes due to what Park has continuously called a “coaching decision.”

Sophomore point guard Jade Vega and redshirt sophomore center Daeja Smith followed up with 10 and 11 points, respectively, in the Titans’ win over the Anteaters. Vega added four assists while Smith grabbed eight rebounds.

In the previous contest, UCI was led by sophomore guard Andee Ritter with 13 points on 4-13 shooting while junior forward Sabrina Engelstad added 12 points. The Anteaters leading scorer on the season, Shereen Sutherland, averages 12.1 points per game but was limited to nine points on 4-10 shooting in her last matchup with the Titans.

The Titans and Cal Poly tip off Wednesday at 5 p.m. with the final game against UCI set for 6 p.m. Saturday night.

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