After making an 18-point comeback without the team’s leading rebounder Daeja Smith, CSUF women’s basketball was unable to secure a victory against UC Santa Barbara, falling 59-52.
The Titans rallied back and took the lead with just over two minutes remaining in the game. They did not score for the rest of the match. However, turning the ball over four times on their next four possessions sealed the deal for their opponents.
“We didn’t even get a shot off on a lot of (the turnovers). We’ve got to at least get something to give ourselves a chance,”said junior guard Hannah Thompson.
The Titans were limited on offense in the first half. Smith was unable to find a rhythm due to the number of bodies the Gauchos were able to throw her way.
While Smith is the only player over six feet tall for CSUF, UCSB’s roster holds four at or above that mark.
She left the game with an ankle injury caused by a collision with Gauchos forward Drew Edelman.
“(Smith) thinks she turned it pretty hard. We’re hoping it’s just a few days but I think we’ll find out more Monday,” said Titans Head Coach Jeff Harada.
The Gauchos’ shooting was a major problem for the Titans at the half. They hold the second-highest three point percentage in the Big West, despite only shooting 27.3 percent from behind the arc in the game, forcing the Titans’ defense to stay out on perimeter players.
This allowed Santa Barbara to dominate in the paint where it scored 20 of its 36 total points.
However, CSUF turned the tide in the second half. Once he knew Smith was not returning, Harada adjusted the defense to shake up the team’s identity on that end of the floor.
“We went zone in the second half when Daeja was out and it helped us size-wise. It forced them to keep moving the ball back and forth and we forced them into some tough shots,” Harada said.
The Titans’ lack of size fueled their second-half run, using their quickness to create opportunities on the offensive end.
CSUF stole the ball six times in the second half, which is up from its one takeaway in the first half.
“I think it was our defense that fueled our offense. We got a lot of points in transition, getting some tips, getting some steals and getting some big and-one’s down the stretch,” Harada said.
The team shot 55.8 percent from the floor and 50 percent from distance in the second half, counteracting its 23.1 and 16.7 percent shooting splits in the first two quarters.
— Jared Eprem (@byJaredEprem) February 11, 2018
After Santa Barbara shot 31.5 percent from 3-point land in the first half, CSUF was able to contain its opponent to only 20 percent in the final 20 minutes.
The wheels did not come off for Fullerton until the final two minutes. After a nearly perfect half, the team was given multiple opportunities, including rebounding its own misses and missed free throws from Santa Barbara, to come away victorious.
“I always tell them, ‘My job as your coach is to put you in a position to win the game with two minutes left. At that point, players have to make plays. Coaches can’t make plays for you,’” Harada said. “We thought we were in a really good position down the stretch and we just didn’t make the plays we needed to make.”
Despite the loss, Harada thought the team’s attitude during the comeback in the second half was a great takeaway from the game.
“It shows the toughness and the grit that we had. We didn’t hang our heads and it would’ve been easy to quit, but we stuck with it. We grinded it out and we found a way to come back,” Harada said.