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Morton Shoots Fullerton to 80-65 Win at Long Beach

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Times Staff Writer

At first, Richard Morton didn’t succeed. So, like any self-respecting shooter, he tried again.

Morton’s first shot in Cal State Fullerton’s Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. game Saturday night at Cal State Long Beach was a 20-footer that missed the rim entirely. It hit the backboard with a brick-like thud. Weaker glass might have shattered.

But for Morton, this was not a sign of things to come. That ill-fated shot turned out to be the only three-pointer he would miss. He made five others en route to a game-high 24 points that led Fullerton to an 80-65 victory in front of 2,207 spectators in Long Beach’s university gym.

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Morton hit three straight three-pointers within a two-minute span in the first half to set the tone for the Titans’ most lopsided victory since late December. Long Beach scored just five points in the first nine minutes of the second half. A Morton three-pointer with 11:19 to play gave the Titans a 60-35 lead. They led by as much as 27. All 12 Titans played, and 11 of them got their names in the box score.

It was Fullerton’s fifth straight victory--after six straight losses--and improved the Titans’ once-shabby record to 6-6 in PCAA play, 13-8 overall. It also gives Fullerton Coach George McQuarn further reason to like his team’s chances heading into the final three weeks of the regular season.

“We’ve come a long way in these last four ballgames,” McQuarn said. “We’ve turned it around. I think the team you saw tonight was pretty much the same team we were in December.”

Much of that can be attributed to Morton, who, in his last three games, has rediscovered the jump shot that had rather cruelly deserted him in January. It’s hardly a coincidence that Morton shot 37% from the field during the Titans’ six-game tailspin.

“I was in a major slump,” Morton said, “but I didn’t want to get down on myself because I knew the team needed my outside shooting.”

Indeed. In Fullerton’s last three games, Morton is shooting 55% (26 of 47) from the floor, including an 8-for-13 performance Saturday night.

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Said McQuarn: “I think Richard Morton’s play represents the way we’ve been playing as a team. He was knocking ‘em down. When we needed a bucket, he got us one.”

Against Long Beach (7-5, 12-12) the Titans didn’t need many. Long Beach Coach Ron Palmer said his team didn’t really start playing until the game’s final five minutes. The late surge--most of which came against the most reserved of Fullerton’s reserves--only served to make the final score more respectable than it should have been.

Long Beach shot just 41% from the floor. Guard Morlon Wiley, who scored 32 points Thursday night against UC Santa Barbara, finished with just 11 against the Titans. Reserve forward Rudy Harvey led the 49ers with 16 mostly meaningless points.

“We did not work hard enough to win this ballgame,” Palmer said. “It’s hard to explain. Maybe we underestimated just how hard Fullerton does play.”

Fullerton got 17 points from forward Henry Turner, who broke out of a miserable shooting slump by making 8 of 15 field-goal attempts. Derek Jones added 11 for the Titans.

But it was Morton’s long-range jump shots that made things easy for the Titans. Morton obviously wasn’t particularly fazed by the ugly result of his first shot attempt. “Naw,” he said. “If my next couple shots would have been like that, maybe.”

His next couple of shots went in. The ones that followed barely tickled the net on their way through. It appears Morton has officially returned.

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And he may be bringing the Titans with him.

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