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Titans Buried by 49ers’ 73% Shooting, 83-66

Times Staff Writer

The problem with Cal State Long Beach this season has been its shooting. Until this week, Long Beach hadn’t shot 50% in a game all season, and was averaging less than 40%.

You couldn’t tell it Thursday night. Long Beach beat Cal State Fullerton, 83-66, as the 49ers shot 73%, missing only 12 of 44 shots.

Of those misses, only 6 were from 2-point territory.

“We’re finally starting to come around,” Long Beach Coach Joe Harrington said. “We got off to a great start tonight, especially John Hatten, but it didn’t matter who shot.”

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The 49ers already have lost 7 games, so their fourth victory needed no embellishment to be satisfying. But this one was extra sweet: Long Beach beat Fullerton before 2,105 fans at Titan Gym, where it hadn’t won since 1975.

Long Beach hit its first 8 shots, not missing until 7 minutes into the game. By then, the 49ers led, 17-8.

That was not without some help from Fullerton, which played tight defense but missed its first 6 shots to fall behind, 11-0.

Fullerton’s first point didn’t come until 3:23 into the game, when Cedric Ceballos hit 1 of 2 free throws.

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Ceballos, who averaged 25 points in the first 7 games, has averaged 10 the past 4, finishing with 10 Thursday night before fouling out with 11:48 left.

Conventional wisdom is that a team that shoots as well as Long Beach did in the first half won’t continue that pace in the second half, but the 49ers nearly did.

Hatten finished with 23 points, a career high. He made 9 of 13 shots, and 5 of 9 free throws. Jeff Eastin added a career-high 17 points, and Marco Fleming had 15.

For Fullerton, 5-6 overall and 0-2 in the Big West Conference, it was one of those nights when there is little if anything a team can do.

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“It wasn’t like they had easy shots,” Fullerton Coach John Sneed said. “We were defending the post, helping, closing down. And everything they shot went in.”

Although they trailed by 11 points at the outset, the Titans cut the margin to 6 at halftime, 43-37.

Long Beach, 1-1 in the Big West, led by 15, 31-16, with 6 minutes left in the first half. But Mark Hill hit 2 3-pointers, and Ceballos completed a 3-point play in a 9-2 run that cut the lead to 8.

Marlon Vaughn’s driving layup at the buzzer made it 6.

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As it turned out, the comeback was wasted. Long Beach scored the first 8 points of the second half, and the lead was 12 again. Fullerton cut it to 8 once with 13 minutes to play but got no closer. Long Beach led by as many as 19.

This was the fifth loss in a row for Fullerton, a team that got off to an unexpected 5-1 start.

With Ceballos struggling recently, Hill has been the top scorer, finishing with 19 against the 49ers.

“When Ceballos got a couple of 25- or 28-point games, I didn’t expect him to do that all season,” Sneed said. “Just like when when we got off to a 5-1 start, I didn’t expect us to go 10-2.”

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