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Fullerton Loses Fifth in a Row : Long Beach Shoots 73% From Field While Beating Titans, 83-66

Times Staff Writer

Cal State Fullerton got into trouble quickly Thursday night.

As quick as a 10-foot jumper, a layup, a 3-pointer and 2 more short jumpers, Cal State Long Beach had what proved to be an insurmountable lead without missing a shot.

The 49ers went on to hand Fullerton its fifth loss in a row, 83-66, in a Big West Conference game in which Long Beach shot 73% from the field, missing only 12 of 44 shots.

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

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This was a 49er team that was shooting 41% this season, and had not hit 50% from the floor in a game until a loss to Nevada Las Vegas Tuesday.

This was, needless to say, a surprise.

“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.”

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 in front of 2,105 in Titan Gym, where it hadn’t won since 1975.

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It also was the worst home loss for Fullerton this decade.

Long Beach hit its first 8 shots and didn’t miss until 7 minutes were gone in the game. By then, the 49ers had a 17-8 lead.

That was not without some help from Fullerton, which played tight defense, but opened the game shooting coldly, missing its first 6 shots and falling behind, 11-0.

The Titans’ 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 that many Thursday when he fouled out with 11:48 left.

“It’s hard,” Ceballos said. “We’ve lost five straight, and I take full responsibility for all the losses. I thought at first it was the talk about my shot selection, but it wasn’t that. I guess it’s just a slump. . . . Things are not clicking, and that hurts. I’m just like a dead body on the court. . . . As soon as I get it back, we’re going to start winning.”

Ceballos picked up his fourth foul late in the first half, on a reach in the backcourt that Fullerton Coach John Sneed called “foolish.”

Long Beach considered it a stroke of luck.

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“I think that was a real plus for us,” said Harrington, who finished second to Fullerton in recruiting Ceballos. “I think he’s one of the strongest players in this league and country.”

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

For Fullerton, it was one of those nights when there is little if anything a team can do. Despite tight defense, the Titans were down quickly.

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

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Although they trailed by 11 at the outset, the Titans clawed back to trail by 6 at halftime, 43-37.

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

Fullerton trimmed the lead to 6 on Marlon Vaughn’s driving layup at the buzzer.

As it turned out, the comeback was for nought. 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.

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With Ceballos struggling recently, Mark 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.” Hill has been the leading scorer the past 3 games, averaging 21 points.

“Mark is playing extremely well for us right now,” Sneed said. “There are going to be times when Mark will get 10 and times he’ll be close to 20. Mark has been . . . on an incline. He hasn’t had peaks and valleys. He’s been very consistent for us. When he hasn’t scored as much, he’s had good numbers in other things.”

For Fullerton, is a frustrating time. If not for that 5-1 start, their losing streak might be of little note. But because of it, and because of Ceballos’ dramatic turnaround, there is disappointment.

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“We’re trying to find ourselves,” said captain Derek Jones, “and we haven’t accomplished it yet.”

Titan Notes

Wayne Williams, who hadn’t scored in 2 games, scored 4 points. John Sykes, who had scored a career-high 14 in his past 2 games, didn’t score. . . . Randal Moos, who had scored only 3-pointers in his 97-minute Fullerton career, scored his first 2-point field goal . . . Fullerton’s Mark Hill is shooting 49% on 3-pointers, making 27 of 55.


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