Riverside, Calif.- Cal State Fullerton knocked down nine three-pointers as a team and junior guard Tailer Butler poured in a season-high 19 points off the bench as the Titans defeated UC Riverside, 82-78, in the conference opener Thursday night at SRC Arena.
Cal State Fullerton (5-9, 1-0 Big West) got a big performance from Butler who connected on 5-of-6 three pointers on the night. The Los Angeles, Calif., native recorded her first double digit scoring figure of the season and set a season high for three-pointers in a game for a Titan. Senior guard Alex Thomas and junior guard Chante Miles each chipped in 18 points for Fullerton in the win. Thomas also set a season-high in points and scored 13 of her points in the first half.
UC Riverside (4-10, 0-1 Big West) got sophomore guard Brittany Crain back after missing the last two games. The Moreno Valley, Calif., native scored 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting, while also grabbing five rebounds. Sophomore guard Annelise Ito scored 22 points and freshman guard Simone DeCoud added 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting for the Highlanders.
The Titans and Highlanders combined to record only two field goals in the first five minutes of the game, but Thomas found her rhythm and scored 11 quick points to put the Titans ahead 13-10 with 14 minutes remaining. Over the next three minutes the Titans extended their lead to six, 16-10, but the Highlanders answered back over the next seven minutes to tie the game at 23.
For the remainder of the first half the teams traded baskets, but Mile's free throw before the half put the Titans up by one, 35-34 heading into intermission. Thomas contributed 13 first half points, while Miles had seven points, and Butler chipped in six points off two three-pointers.
The Titans connected on 46 percent of their shots in the half which included four three pointers (4-for-9), while the Highlanders shot 53.8 percent and outscored Fullerton 18-12 in the paint.
Over the first four and a half minutes of the second half, Kathleen Iwuoha and Miles each added four points to help Fullerton go on a 13-4 run and extend their lead to ten, 48-38. The Highlanders came within four, 52-48, but again the Titans wouldn't let Riverside take the lead as Butler knocked down a three-pointer to put Fullerton ahead by nine with just over 11 minutes remaining.
Fullerton would extend its lead to as many as 14 points with 8:52 left to play in the second half and allowed Riverside to only come within three points, 79-76, with under a minute left. The Titans would hold off the Highlanders as Butler and Thomas both converted free throws with less than 14 seconds remaining, paving way to its seventh conference-opening win in the last eight seasons.
The Titans continue Big West play next Thursday when they host UC Irvine at 7 p.m. back in Titan Gym.
Notes: Tonight's meeting marks the 44th all-time meeting between the two schools…Riverside leads the all-time series 21-23…Fullerton is now 8-17 against the Highlanders in Big West play….the Titans are now 10-10 all-time at UCR… Fullerton has won the last three of four contests… The Titans are now 13-16 all-time in Big West openers and 6-10 in conference openers on the road…Fullerton's all-time record versus the Big West conference is 195-296…Chante Miles has scored double digit figures in all, but one game this season (12 games)…Thomas previous season high was 16 points versus Denver on Jan. 3, 2014…Tailer Butler poured in a season high 17 points and five three-pointers…The Titans are now 4-1 when scoring at least 60 points…Fullerton is 3-1 when shooting better than 40 percent from the floor.