Second-Half Surge Lifts Titans Over Pioneers
FULLERTON, Calif.- Junior guard Chante Miles scored 20 points and senior guard Alex Thomas chipped in 16 points as a second half surge helped the Cal State Fullerton Titans pull away for a 63-56 victory over the Denver Pioneers Friday night at Titan Gym.
The Titans entered the second half trailing by five points, 30-25, but Fullerton rallied after intermission led by Miles who scored 13 of her 20 points in the second half on 6-of-13 shooting. Thomas also helped Fullerton put the game away as she knocked down all eight of her attempts from the charity stripe. Junior forward Natalie Williams added 10 points in the victory.
Denver was led by sophomore guard Kailey Edwards who poured in 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting. The Pioneers had a strong prescence down low as senior forward Desiree Hunter grabbed 17 rebounds in the loss.
Fullerton (4-9) came out of the gates ready to play, as it claimed an early 7-2 lead after Miles scored the first five Titan points. However, Denver (2-11) soon responded, fueled by Edwards who scored 10 quick points to put the Pioneers ahead 14-13 with 11:04 remaining in the half.
Over the next five minutes Fullerton and Denver traded baskets, but the Pioneers extended their lead over the next three minutes and took their biggest lead of the half, 27-20, with 3:46 remaining. The Titans slowly tried to close the deficit as a Chelsea Austin layup helped the Titans close the gap 30-25 at the half.
As a team Cal State Fullerton had a .300 shooting percentage (9-of-30), while the Pioneers knocked down 46.7 percent (14-of-30) of their opportunities. Miles added seven first half points, while Iwuoha contributed four points and three rebounds.
Just like the first half, Fullerton opened the second half on an 8-2 run and took a 33-32 lead after freshman Samantha Logan knocked down a three-pointer with 15:29 left.
After keeping it close for the next six minutes, a 6-2 run fueled by two Mile's baskets gave the Titans a 47-40 lead with 6:55 left in the game. Fullerton then stretched their lead to nine, 54-45, with 3:30 remaining after Williams added a pair of baskets off the bench. In the final minutes, the Titans were able to hold off the Pioneers after knocking down key free throws.
Fullerton finished the night shooting 33 percent from the field and 20 percent from behind the arc, while the Pioneers connected on 36.7 percent of their shots. The Titans outscored Denver 26-14 in the paint and besides Hunter's 17 rebound performance the Titans outrebounded the Pioneers 41-40, which included 15 offensive rebounds.
Cal State Fullerton will get back it on Thursday, Jan. 9 as the Titans start conference play versus UC Riverside at 7 p.m. at the Student Rec Center in Riverside, Calif.
Notes: Today's matchup was the very first meeting between the two programs… the Titans improve to 7-6 all-time against the Summit League… Fullerton previously loss to Summit League opponent South Dakota, 66-57, in the 2013 season opener on Nov. 8, 2013… the Titans are now 3-4 at Titan Gym this season… redshirt sophomore Chelsea Austin recorded her first points of the season… the Titans are now 1-9 when trailing at the half… Fullerton is now 3-1 when scoring at least 60 points.
Head Coach Daron Park
"It definetly was a tale of two halves. I thought we were out-played and out-hustled in the first half and the score told it all. I thought the second half our kids stepped up and I challenged them at halftime and they responded. It started on the defensive end and that enabled us to get some quality shots and transition points."
On Alex Thomas' performance...
"Alex was really solid for us tonight. She took advantage of the foul line and went 8-for-8 which is terriffic! It's great to see multiple double-figure scorers, but we need that third scorer on a more consistent basis."
On starting Conference play...
"I told the team to enjoy the next few days, but conference play is a whole other animal. It's a true test and the best team wins the conference regular season, especially since you get to play every team home and away. We start with a good UC Riverside team Thursday and we're looking forward to it."