LOS ANGELES — After the initial game with UCLA on Wednesday was postponed, Cal State Fullerton women’s basketball team returned to the court on Friday afternoon to play the school’s first athletic event since March, and fell to the Bruins, 98-49, at a fan-less Pauley Pavilion.
Coming off their first winning season since 1990-91, the Titans struggled to hold on to the ball, as they committed 25 turnovers that resulted in 44 UCLA points. On the other hand, UCLA, which is ranked No. 9 by the Associated Press, committed only seven turnovers while CSUF scored only five points off of the team. The Bruins led by as much as 53 points late in the fourth quarter.
CSUF head coach Jeff Harada said that the amount of turnovers was partially due to this being the team’s first game.
“They sped us up tonight, made us play faster,” Harada said. “But, we got to do a better job taking care of the past basketball. It's the unforced turnovers that I was upset with more so than anything else.”
CSUF started the game in rhythm, as the Titans knocked down their first four shots to build a five-point lead, something that Harada said was a positive takeaway from Friday. Not long after, the Bruins took a four-minute lead as part of a 19-0 run, and held onto it for the rest of the way. The Titans shot 34% from the field and 23% from the 3-point line, while UCLA shot 49% from the floor and made 35% of its 3-pointers against a team that only let 38.3% of its opponents’ shots go in last year.
The Bruins were also disciplined on defense, as CSUF did not attempt a free throw until close to two minutes into the third quarter. The Titans finished with 14 attempted free throws and made 10 of them. On the other side, UCLA went 22-for-32 from the free-throw line.
UCLA sophomore guard Charisma Osborne scored a game-high 31 points and six assists in the win — the second time she has scored over 30 points in her college career. Associated Press preseason All-American Michaela Onyenwere followed Osborne with 22 points and had a game-high eight rebounds.
Junior guard Amiee Book led in scoring for the Titans with 20 points and went 4-for-8 beyond the 3-point arc. Book, who was the only player to score in double-figures on Friday, is the team’s top returning scorer after guard Raina Perez transferred to North Carolina State and Taylor Turney opted out of the season, as that duo made up over 52% of the team’s scoring last season. Harada said that Book played her heart out and was glad to see her do well.
“She left it all on the floor tonight. She was just confident,” Harada said. “Played a ton of minutes guarding an all American player in Onyenwere, so it's just for her, always really proud and happy for her that she had a really nice game tonight, and she deserves it because she works so hard.”
In addition, CSUF was without last season’s Big West Hustle Player of the Year and all-conference defensive team member, Carolyn Gill, who was out with a left knee injury. Harada said there is no timetable for her return, but she’s making progress towards coming back to play. Despite not playing, Gill was handing out high-fives and cheering on teammates, something Harada said he appreciates.
“Carolyn’s energy is contagious and sets the tone for us. This team feeds off of it and she’s making her presence felt despite not being on the court,” Harada said.
UCLA continued to push the tempo and force turnovers in the first half, leading by as much as 23 points late in the second quarter. By halftime, UCLA had forced CSUF to commit 12 turnovers and scored 17 points off of it. UCLA only committed three turnovers in the first 20 minutes and CSUF scored no points off of those turnovers.
The Bruins compiled more runs in the second half as they coasted with 23 points in the final quarter to have the near 50-point win.
“I really could care less about the point differential. But I think that we stayed locked in the second half,” said UCLA head coach Cori Close.
With only cardboard cutouts in the seats, pumped in crowd noise was played throughout the game, as fans are not allowed to attend any Pac-12 games, the conference in which UCLA is in. Although there were no fans, the artificial crowd noise, music and masks made it difficult for Harada to talk, as he had to pull his mask down just to talk to his team on the court.
“To have to wear a mask, it's hard. It's hard to yell out instructions, it's hard to say stuff. My voice is kind of cracked,” Harada said. “There's times where even yelling as loud as I can through the mask isn't enough, so there’s times I gotta take my mask off for a quick second just to yell instructions, so it's definitely a different feel and it's gonna be a challenge season long.”
There will be no fans in the stands next week as well when the Titans return to the court in their home opener on Wednesday against UNLV, with tipoff set for 5 p.m.