Cal State Fullerton women’s basketball team showed a great sense of urgency in a 67-58 win over UC Irvine on Fan Appreciation Night on Wednesday.
The Titans set the tempo early by outscoring the Anteaters 20-12 in the first quarter.
— Titans Women’s Basketball (@FullertonWBB) February 28, 2019
Center Daeja Smith scored 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field and collected 11 rebounds. Guard Raina Perez pitched in with 17 points to go along with six assists.
Perez credited her teammates for helping her find gaps in the defense to make stellar passes.
“My teammates that were calling for the ball within the gaps, they were going to open spots, so power to them, because they were the ones that helped me get through it,” Perez said.
Through the first quarter, three Titan starters remained perfect from the field, including Hannah Thompson, Perez and Smith. All three players made two field goals each and scored 13 of the team’s 20 points in the first quarter.
As a team, the Titans shot 75 percent from the floor, making nine of their first 12 shots, including an equally impressive 2-of-3 from the 3-point line in the first quarter.
UCI guard Jordan Sanders, who is currently second in the Big West Conference in points per game (20.4), single-handedly kept her team in the game with 12 of her team’s points. Everyone else on the UCI roster scored five points or fewer in the first 20 minutes of play.
The Titans distributed their first-half scoring across six of their eight players, including eight points by Thompson.
Forward Carolyn Gill heated up in the third quarter, scoring six points, pulling down four rebounds and holding UCI’s Sanders scoreless on the defensive end.
CSUF allowed the Anteaters back into the game as they trailed by six points with one minute left, but the Titans were able to prevail against the Anteaters.
Head coach Jeff Harada was impressed with the way the team handled the final 10 minutes of the game, and credited the win to pride.
“I think we were determined to not let history repeat itself. We did not want that to happen. It left a real bitter taste in our mouth after the last game,” Harada said.
UCI can be credited for the comeback due to their relentless defense, swarming the Titans each time a new player touched the ball. The Anteaters forced eight CSUF turnovers in the fourth quarter alone.
Forced turnovers were not enough to bring the Anteaters all the way back as it ultimately led to UCI fouling the Titans to try to gain more possessions in the final minute. The Anteaters finished the game with 24 fouls on the night due to aggressive play.
Smith was the target of many of these fouls as she played through contact all night long, which led to her success around the rim and at the free throw line.
“My coaches are telling me to be more patient in the post, so in order for me to be physical I guess I have to hold the ball and make good decisions,” Smith said.
With the win, the Titans are now tied for sixth place in the Big West with Long Beach State.