Wynn's 49ers Write A Different Headline In Tournament Opener
Page 2 From The Tournament
Abbey Mastracco is a writer for FoxSportsWest.com
(6) Long Beach State def. (7) Cal State Fullerton, 64-60
LONG BEACH – A year ago, while Cal State Fullerton was making its run through the Big West Women’s Basketball Tournament, Long Beach State head coach Jody Wynn was cutting out headlines and hanging them on the walls of her office.
But a lot can change in a year and a lot has changed for both teams. The Titans have a new head coach and the 49ers head coach is going to have to find some new office decorations after 6-seed Long Beach’s 64-60 win over rival 7-seed Cal State Fullerton, Tuesday night at the Walter Pyramid in the first round of the Big West Tournament.
The win avenged not only last year’s loss in the opening round of the tournament but the loss from two weeks ago as well.
“We don’t really need any more motivation than the feeling of being sent home on day one,” Wynn said. “After we lost to Cal State Fullerton last year I printed out five articles with headlines about the game and I taped the headlines in my office… It was something that I saw every day, it was right next to my phone.
“I felt like I shortchanged my team last year, maybe I was a little overconfident or something, and I just didn’t want that happening again, so I had those five headlines staring at me.”
The Titans (12-18) opened up in a defensive press that bothered Long Beach (17-14) in the March 1 meeting at Titan Gym. But while it’s been effective, it’s not something the Titans can sustain throughout the entirety of the game with only three bench players.
“We started with the press, we jumped into it right away but we have a shallow bench so we have to pick our spots to get in it,” said Fullerton head coach Daron Park. “We’re not a team that’s historically going to press for 40 minutes a game. That’s not our identity, that’s not who we are. But I thought we did a great job tonight of getting in and out of it and making it difficult for Long Beach.”
The Titans’ Kathleen Iwuoha and Chante Miles each finished with 14 points to lead Fullerton and Long Beach was led by Lauren Spargo’s 19 points and seven rebounds.
Wynn preached to her 49er team all year the importance of beating Fullerton. She used their early exit as motivation throughout the season.
“We don’t really need any more motivation than the feeling of being sent home on day one,” Wynn said.
Now, it’s the Titans’ turn to use this loss to their advantage next year.
“It’s going to sting,” Park said. “This isn’t where we want to be, and we’re not happy about it. And we’re going to work diligently, day in and day out, to do everything we can to ensure that we’re not here again next year.”
(5) UC Davis def. (8) UC Santa Barbara, 58-57
LONG BEACH – UC Santa Barbara isn’t used to opening the postseason this early. For a team that has traditionally dominated the Big West Conference in women’s basketball, the number in front of its name Tuesday night at the Walter Pyramid, No. 8, looked a little too high.
It’s been a tough year for the Gauchos as they’ve battled injuries and came out on the wrong side of one- and two-possession losses and their season finally came to and end Tuesday night in Long Beach with yet another one-possession loss - a 58-57 loss to 5th-seeded UC Davis in the opening round of the Big West Women’s Championship Tournament.
“That was not an 8-22 team that just finished those last 20 minutes,” said head coach Carlene Mitchell. “I always speak kindness and I speak composure. It took me 21 losses to finally lose mine and that’s something I can’t take back. I can’t give them another game.”
The Gauchos jumped out to an early lead before Davis pulled away in the first half. But a furious second-half rally kept the game close throughout an exciting second half. After being down by as much as 19 late in the first, UCSB used a 12-2 run early in the second and later a 13-0 run to come back to within three points with just over three minutes to go.
With 1:52 left, Destini Mason scored on the break to cut the deficit to just one, 56-55. After Molly Greubel iced two technical foul shots with only 1:05 left, Nesbit took an offensive rebound down for a transition layup.
But the buzzer beater wouldn’t fall. Nesbit crumpled to the floor in tears, as her career, as well as those of her senior teammates, ended.
“Every team in our conference has sort of developed its own rivalry and for us, we did come into the conference at a time when Santa Barbara was at its peak and they were winning championships,” said Davis head coach Jennifer Gross. “They were a team that we looked to and said, ‘We want to get to that point where we’re sitting at the top.’”
The Aggies (15-15), led by Celia Marfone’s 15 points and all-Big West forward Alyson Doherty’s 14 points and seven rebounds, did get one win closer to the top but it might not be such an easy journey to the finish line. Doherty played only 26 minutes, injuring her knee in the second half. She will be evaluated but it is not yet known if she will be available to face UC Irvine Wednesday.
“With two minutes to go I pulled the group together and was just like, ‘This girl sitting on the bench, she’s worked her butt off day in and day out. She’s been in the gym doing extra. We have to win this game for her,’” Marfone said. “Our defensive urgency from that point changed.”
While the Aggies advance to Wednesday, the Gauchos are already looking ahead to next season.
“This program won’t be here where it’s at right now for very long,” Mitchell said.