March 6, 2012
SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA - Big West Player of the Year Kristina Santiago finished with a game-high 31 points to pace a pair of teammates in double figures and top-seeded Cal Poly shot just under 52 percent from the field for the game on Tuesday night, handing No. 8-seeded Cal State Fullerton a 71-53 loss in the first round of the 2012 Big West Conference Women's Basketball Tournament at Mott Gym in San Luis Obispo.
The Titans end the season on a three-game losing streak, finishing the year at 11-19 overall and 4-12 in Big West play, eliminated by the Mustangs for the second consecutive season. Cal Poly improved to 17-13 overall and will advance to face No. 7 seed Long Beach State, which upset second-seeded Cal State Northridge on Tuesday night, 57-52, in the semifinal round at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., on Friday (March 9).
No. 5 Pacific upset No. 4 UC Davis, 59-51, and No. 6 UC Santa Barbara stunned No. 3 UC Irvine, 61-51, elsewhere Tuesday to complete the foursome advancing to the semifinals.
Trailing by as many as 24 points midway through the second half, Fullerton's offense finally clicked, exploding for a 14-0 run over the next five and a half minutes to cut the deficit down to just 10 points at 55-45 with 6:05 remaining. Trading baskets and free throws, the Titans closed the gap back to 10 points once again at 61-51 with 2:47 remaining, but the Mustangs slammed the brakes on any rally attempt, closing on a 10-2 run to ice the game.
Playing her final game in a Fullerton uniform, senior Megan Richardson finished with a team-high 13 points, moving her past Robin Holmes and Shayla Bradshaw into third place on the school's all-time scoring list with 1,742 career points. Junior Alicya Crisp, sophomore Mya Olivier, and freshman Kathleen Iwuoha all finished with five rebounds to pace the Titans on the glass.
Santiago hit 13-of-16 from the field and grabbed nine rebounds to go with four steals for Cal Poly, which also had Ariana Elegado (a career-high 14 points) and Christine Martin (12 points) in double figures. The Mustangs held the Titans to just 33 percent shooting on the night and outrebounded Fullerton, 39-29.
The two teams played close to start the game with neither side leading by more than three points in the first five minutes. However, a three-pointer by Elegado ignited a 7-0 burst for Cal Poly, which used a 21-5 explosion over the final 11 minutes of the first half to carry an 18-point, 41-23, lead into the locker room at the break. The Mustangs shot just under 55 percent for the half while holding Fullerton to just 31 percent shooting.