Natalie Crawford's 11 second-half points led UC Irvine's come-from-behind 63-58 victory over Cal State Fullerton in a Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. women's basketball game in front of 275 Saturday at the Bren Center.
Irvine (8-11 overall, 6-5 in the PCAA) was down, 33-23, at halftime, but it outscored Fullerton, 11-4, in the first 5:18 of the second half. The teams traded baskets until Crawford tied the score, 46-46, with 9:30 remaining. One minute later, Crawford put Irvine ahead to stay with an eight-foot jumper. She finished with 17 points.
"Our defense kept us in the game," Crawford said. "If you don't have offense, your defense has to keep you in the game."
Dean Andrea, Irvine coach, agreed. "Our defense is really what did it for us," he said. "We didn't have good guard play, defensively, in the first half."
But Fullerton (12-8, 7-4) did. Sheryl Jones took advantage of the slow-reacting Irvine defense by running up 15 first-half points to equal her career high for a game. Jones, a 5-foot 6-inch junior, led all scorers with 20 points.
Jones had five first-half steals to help give Fullerton leads of up to 12. But she had little help from her teammates. When Irvine's defense stiffened on Fullerton's guards, no one else picked up the slack.
"We're disappointed about this one," Fullerton Coach Maryalyce Jeremiah said. "We thought we were prepared."
For one half, they were. The Titans outshot Irvine, 45%-36%, in the first half. Most of Irvine's offense came from 6-3 junior Cheryl Eiland, who came off the bench to score nine first-half points. She finished with 11.
Irvine's comeback was also aided by the guard play of Kippie Brown and Cheryl Hoffman. Brown finished with 12 points--8 on free throws in the game's last four minutes.
Hoffman played tough defense off the bench and scored her seven points in the second half.
Fullerton had trouble getting point production from forwards Amy Torczon (13.4 points per game average) and Wendy Anae (10.1 points).
Torczon was just 3 of 7 from the field for 8 points in 39 minutes. She led the Titans with 10 rebounds, nine on the defensive boards. Anae was just 2 of 9 from the field for 5 points.
Guard Jill Matyuch scored 12 points for Fullerton, and Jenny Lee added 10 for Irvine.