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Titans Fall Flat in 65-44 Loss to Fresno State

Times Staff Writer

For Cal State Fullerton, this was a game that created the approximate sensation of a basketball hitting a dead spot on a wooden floor.

Fullerton’s trek through the Central Valley ended here in Selland Arena Monday night in a game that Coach John Sneed called a “total embarrassment"--a 65-44 loss to Fresno State in front of a red-clad crowd of 9,856.

The Titans trailed by 14 at halftime and by as many as 28, losing to a team that won only 9 games in each of the previous 2 seasons.

“We lost our poise and never recovered it,” Sneed said. “I was very disappointed in the way we took the court. We were never ready to play. We got down and went in the tank. . . . We regressed to the way were playing earlier in the year. . . . That’s all I have to say about it.”

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Fullerton had not scored so few points in a game since last season, when they had only 37 against New Mexico State in Las Cruces.

Even that was a bit different situation. New Mexico State only scored 41 in that one.

After this loss, Sneed said through a team spokesman that his players would not be allowed to talk to reporters, but Sneed stood by while Cedric Ceballos spoke.

“We couldn’t do anything,” Ceballos said. “They just killed us. We couldn’t run our offense. We weren’t ready to play.”

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Fullerton had difficulty against Fresno State’s defense, and was particularly unable to operate against a zone. Fullerton managed little more than outside shots--which they usually missed--and forced drives.

Fresno State, on the other hand, picked apart the Titans’ matchup zone, perhaps because the Bulldogs are so familiar with the defense. They often play it themselves.

“I’m not saying we’re great against zones, but sometimes it gives us the opportunity to slow the game down,” Fresno State Coach Ron Adams said. “I think Fullerton has great natural talent, and I think they’re a good man team. I was surprised they didn’t play more man.”

After winning only 9 games in each of his first 2 seasons, Adams has been under closest scrutiny this year, his job almost certainly depending on whether his team can come close to .500.

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Adams reached what may prove a watershed Monday, getting his 10th victory of the season as the Bulldogs handed Fullerton its most thorough defeat of the year.

With at least 10 games remaining, Adams has won more games than in either of his previous seasons.

What does this mean?

“This means we’re getting better,” Adams said. “I haven’t shared my feelings about the first 2 years much. I have a lot to say, but I haven’t said it. It was difficult.”

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The Bulldogs beat Fullerton on a night when the Titans were not their best, making only 18 of 58 shots (31%), their poorest shooting performance of the season.

Fullerton fell behind by as many as 14 in the first half, and then saw the game completely unravel at the start of the second. Just 3 minutes into the half, freshman guard Wilbert Hooker hit a 3-pointer and Fresno State had a 44-22 lead. The lead grew to as many as 28 points.

Senior forward Jervis Cole led Fresno State with 22 points, and Hooker and Kevin Stevenson added 14. Ceballos scored 15 for Fullerton.

Ceballos’ points came hard, as he made just 7 of 17 shots. Mark Hill’s 12 points came harder, as he made but 4 of 15.

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Fresno State’s Adams took over in 1987, after the resignation of Boyd Grant, who did not have a losing season in 8 years here, and who had 5 20-win seasons in a row before his final season, when the Bulldogs went 15-15.

With this year’s team, Adams is becoming more confident.

“On any given night, we can be a very good team,” Adams said. “Certainly it feels better. Certainly a lot more people are pleased with what they see. . . . Each game is winnable, but certainly--knock on wood--the opposite is true.”

Granted, Fresno State’s success should be met with some skepticism. Among the 10 victories are wins over Pan American, U.S. International, New Hampshire and Southern Utah State.

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On the other hand, the Bulldogs have won close games against Utah State and Cal State Long Beach. Among the losses are a 6-point defeat to Nevada Las Vegas and 3-point losses to New Mexico State and UC Irvine.

Like Adams, Fullerton’s Sneed is in a precarious position himself, trying to erase the first word from his title of acting coach. A decision will not come until the end of the season, which--in effect--is one long tryout.

With the victory, Fresno State is 10-8 overall, 5-4 in the Big West Conference.

Fullerton falls to 8-9, 3-5.

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