The Titans got the better of the 49ers in their last home game as Fullerton stole a win with a buzzer-beater three to seal the deal in a gritty matchup.
With the Big West tournament looming, the 49ers will have another shot at redemption, along with hopes to gain an invitation to March Madness.
With two meetings under its belt, seventh-seeded Long Beach (8-21, 5-11 Big West) will once again meet six-seeded Fullerton (14-15, 6-10 Big West) in the first round of the playoffs.
After splitting the regular season games with the away team winning each match, the two teams will battle once again, but this time on a neutral court at UC Irvine’s Bren Event Center Tuesday night.
In the first meeting between the two squads, the 49ers were able to keep the Titans supporting cast in check, limiting Fullerton’s damage mostly to senior center Daeja Smith’s double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Teams with a solid paint presence and size tend to give the 49ers problems, but can be kept at bay with strong perimeter defense and transition scoring to keep the action on the outside.
“When we get zoned it’s tough. It’s tough for us to manufacture points. If you don’t get them in transition, and they’ve got a big kid inside, we’ve got to find a way to attack, to get to the foul,” said head coach Jeff Cammon. “You gotta make sure you’re forcing teams into their weaknesses.”
This mindset didn’t work as well the second go-around, as Smith finished with another double-double and the 49ers struggled to contain guards Raina Perez and Jade Vega as they caught fire down the stretch, while the 49ers appeared to run out of gas.
Fullerton ended up winning the game on a prayer as the buzzer sounded by Perez, leaving a bad taste in the 49ers’ mouths.
“I’ve got to make sure that they execute better and I just got to do a better job,” said Cammon.
With guards Shanaijah Davison and Justina King, who received the Big West Freshman of the Year award, applying pressure in transition, look for sophomore forward Naomi Hunt’s flamethrower from behind the arc to provide a scoring punch after a poor 3-for-10 performance last time the teams met.
“It’s going to be tough for us to win when Naomi shoots 3-for-10 … we didn’t score enough. I thought if we would have defended a little better, maybe 47 points is enough versus Fullerton because they don’t score at a high clip either,” said Cammon.
With an inside-out approach from the guards driving and kicking to open shooters, along with hard-nosed defense on the perimeter, the 49ers have shown they have the toughness to pull out a win even when the odds aren’t in their favor.
The 49ers play at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday against Fullerton at the Bren Events Center.