Long Beach State women’s basketball survived a late scare and stayed undefeated in Big West Conference action by beating Cal State Fullerton 66-64 on Saturday at Walter Pyramid.
LBSU (7-1, 6-0) sits atop the Big West standings and is off to its best start since the 2005-06 season.
Fullerton (0-7, 0-4) bounced back from a sound defeat in Long Beach on Friday night thanks to 6/10 shooting from 3-point range on Saturday. The Titans’ shot to tie the game at the regulation buzzer fell short.
“We didn’t come out with the same energy and intensity that we did on the first night,” LBSU coach Jeff Cammon said. “Fullerton is a tough team and you can’t look at their record. They probably left 20 points on the board (on Friday) because we rushed them, but tonight they were more composed and they finished. I’m proud that we were able to withstand that run and come away with the victory. When we made mistakes they made us pay.”
LBSU was led by Justina King’s 21 points and Naomi Hunt’s 19 points. King helped the Beach stay in front by scoring 12 points from the free throw line down the stretch. Hunt started the game strongly after struggling on Friday.
“I wanted to start more inside rather than outside like I did the past three games just shooting threes,” Hunt said. “That way I can open up my game and have more opportunities.”
“We wanted to get her going but the rest was her,” Cammon said of Hunt. “She was patient and picked her spots and made some big plays for us. I don’t think she forced it and she let the game come to her. She took four 3-pointers and scored 19 points so that just shows her growth, her versatility and her ability to do all of the things.”
Forward Jasmine Hardy also turned in a solid performance for LBSU with seven points, five rebounds, and a pair of steals off the bench. Guard Ma’Qhi Berry played limited minutes but contributed six points and a team-high four steals.
“Collectively we made some big plays,” Cammon said. “I’m impressed with our ability to close out games. We didn’t finish games last year and in the past. But I think you can see the experience of this team starting to take over because we’re learning from the past for sure.”
Fullerton came out with renewed vigor Saturday and led for most of the first quarter, but Hunt and Hardy got into the paint to put LBSU up 15-13 after eight minutes. The Beach led by as many as eight points in the first half and was leading 32-26 at halftime.
LBSU opened up the second half with a 9-0 run sparked by a 3-pointer from King. However, Amiee Book’s 21 points kept Fullerton in the game. Her back-to-back buckets made it a two-point game in the final minute after LBSU led by as many as 14 points in the fourth quarter.
Fullerton trailed by two points with 25 seconds left on the clock, but the Titans dibbled the clock down and missed their shot at a game-tying bucket.
“The grit and determination that we have is really nice to see from everybody,” Hunt said.
LBSU will visit UC Irvine for a pair of non-conference games on Friday and Saturday at 4 p.m.