February 9, 2013

Yeager Bombs Away as Titans Rally in Second Half

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- Cal State Fullerton senior Sammy Yeager scored 25 of his team-high 30 points in the second half and the visiting Titans rallied from 11 points down after the break to post a come-from-behind, 79-67, win at UC Riverside on Saturday night in front of a Fox Sports Prime Ticket audience at the SRC Arena.

The Titans (12-11 overall, 5-6 in Big West Conference play) snapped a three-game losing streak with the victory, shooting better than 65 percent during their second-half rally after being held to just 32 percent shooting in the opening 20 minutes. The Highlanders (5-18, 2-9) shot 54 percent from the floor for the game, but could not hold off the hot-shooting Fullerton offense in the second period.

Yeager, who was held to just 2-of-6 from the field and five total points in the first half, exploded to make 9-of-11 from the floor and 5-of-6 from beyond the arc in the second to match his Fullerton career high set against UC Santa Barbara on Dec. 29 at Titan Gym -- also in a televised contest.

"Guys just started playing together in the second half," Yeager said. "Coach said to pick the energy up, play together, and fight defensively. (Chris Patton) had a good game down low, but we just needed to play together.

"Just look at the first half. We hit 3-of-17 from three. Second half, we got it going early and it just rubs off. I felt like they were giving us the three a little bit, but it all started from the penetration."

Senior D.J. Seeley also finished in double figures, adding 21 points -- 16 of those in the second half -- to go with four rebounds and three assists. It was his 10th game of 20 points or more this season. Senior Kwame Vaughn scored 13 points, grabbed five rebounds, and dished out six assists against only two turnovers while playing all 40 minutes on the night.

Yeager's performance helped offset a huge night from Riverside's Patton, who finished with a game-high 36 points on 14-of-16 from the floor, making his first eight consecutive baskets before missing for the first time three minutes into the second half. Patton finished with 19 of the team's 27 points in the second half.

A pair of free throws by Patton early in the second period gave the Highlanders their largest lead of the game at 11 points with 18:42 remaining in the game before Fullerton began to chip away. Yeager scored the team's first 10 points of the second period to help cut the deficit to five points and a three-point play by Seeley got the Titans to within three points at 45-42 with 16:28 to play.

Patton scored inside to push the lead back to five, but that would be it for Riverside as Vaughn hit a jumper to start a 9-0 run that gave Fullerton its first lead of the night and the Titans would never look back. The Highlanders would lead just once more as a jumper by Patton put UCR up, 54-53, but Yeager responded with his fourth three-pointer of the period to start a 10-2 burst that put Fullerton ahead, 64-57, with 6:05 to play.

The Highlanders would come no closer than four points at 64-60 a minute later as the Titans' lead grew to 10 points with 3:40 to play and to as many as 13 points with 30 seconds remaining as Fullerton, which hit 18-of-20 from the line overall on the night, finished 5-of-6 from the stripe down the stretch to ice the game.

Chris Harriel also finished in double figures for UC Riverside, which outrebounded the Titans, 30-24, for the game, but committed 13 turnovers that led to 25 points for Fullerton.

The Titans capped off a difficult and emotional week with the loss of assistant women's basketball coach Monica Quan, coming out wearing special shooting shirts and both teams honoring her memory by wearing orange ribbons and participating in a pregame moment of silence.

"It really meant a lot for 'Mo' and her family so that one is for her," Yeager said.

Cal State Fullerton returns to the court next week with two more TV games as the Titans travel to Long Beach State on Wednesday (Feb. 13) at 8 p.m. on ESPNU before heading to UC Irvine on Saturday (Feb. 16) for an 8 p.m. tip-off on Fox Sports Prime Ticket.