Strong Second Half Powers Gauchos to 57-37 Win Over Fullerton

Drea Toler (Photo by Eric Isaacs)
Drea Toler (Photo by Eric Isaacs)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - For the second straight time, Cal State Fullerton (4-18, 1-8) became the only Big West team to hold UCSB (11-10, 6-2) under 58 points.

And, for the second straight time, the Gauchos came away victorious, holding Fullerton to an opponent season-low in points on their way to a 57-37 win on Wednesday, their fourth straight at the Thunderdome.

With their sixth win in their last seven outings, the Gauchos have brought their record above .500 for the first time since Dec. 3, 2013. At 6-2 in conference, they are now tied for second place in the Big West with UC Davis, a team they face this Saturday at home.

After a sluggish opening half in which the home side scored just 17 points – it's lowest scoring output in any half this season – the Gauchos looked more like themselves following the halftime break, outscoring the Titans 40-15 over the final 20 minutes. Redshirt juniors Drea Toler (5-8 FG) and Drew Edelman (6-8) tied for game-high honors with 14 points apiece, combining to outscore Fullerton 20-15 by themselves in the second half. Toler also added three assists and three steals, while Edelman snatched a game-high seven rebounds.

Junior guard Makala Roper added 11 points, four assists and three rebounds off the bench.

"We've tried to get it inside more, drive it to collapse the defense and get our shooters open shots," Roper said. "We got off to a slow start today, but we just have to keep pushing and remain focused on our goal, which is winning the conference."

Coming off a record-breaking performance at UC Irvine last Saturday in which they set season-highs in a number of offensive categories, the Gauchos looked like a completely different team to open their second meeting of the season with the Titans, going just 2-14 from the field in the first quarter. Thanks to Sarah Porter's three-pointer in the final seconds, the Gauchos finished the first period trailing 11-7, tying for their second-lowest scoring quarter all year.

Santa Barbara continued to struggle in the second period, being outscored once again 11-10 to head into the half down 22-17.

"Offensively we were abysmal in the first half," head coach Bonnie Henrickson said. "We struggled, we had no rhythm, no flow, we were antsy. I think it was a really poor response to the way they were defending us."

Coming out of halftime, UCSB played with renewed energy and urgency, finding Edelman inside on each of their first three possessions to cut Fullerton's lead to 24-23. Five straight points from the Titans pushed their lead back up to six at 29-23, but from that point on, it was all Gauchos.

A three-pointer from Toler made it 29-26 at the 3:40 mark of the third quarter. The following two possessions saw Porter tie things up with her second triple of the game before Edelman put away another layup to give UCSB its first lead of the game, 31-29.

Another Toler layup and three Gaucho free throws in the final minute pushed the UCSB run to 13-1, giving them a 36-30 advantage heading into the final period.

Santa Barbara's momentum continued early in the fourth, as Coco Miller opened things up with a three-pointer, her first field goal of the game, to end a scoring drought that had lasted nearly two full games. The Gauchos would dominate the rest of the way, enjoying their highest-scoring quarter (21) and holding Fullerton to its lowest-scoring quarter (7) of the night.

Senior point guard Onome Jemerigbe was held without a single point or assist, marking the first time this season she has finished with zero in either category. It also ends Jemerigbe's career-best streaks of nine straight games with at least four assists and 43 straight games with at least one.

The Titans' .333 shooting clip was the third-lowest of any UCSB opponent this season, while their 13 field goals were four less than the previous opponent low. Their leading scorer for the night was Jordan Jackson, who finished with 14 points on 5-11 shooting.

After making just one three-pointer in the first half, UCSB knocked down five in the second, finishing with six. The Gauchos have now made at least five three-pointers in 17 straight games.

UCSB will be back in action with a pivotal matchup this Saturday against UC Davis at 2 p.m.