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Bruins Nearly Caught Looking Past Titans : College basketball:Fired-up Fullerton refuses to fizzle out, forcing UCLA to get down to business.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Most figured Cal State Fullerton would get its stockings stuffed by second-ranked UCLA Monday night, and even Bruin players, in Titan forward Bruce Bowen’s eyes, thought it would be a cakewalk.

“Their players were acting like, ‘My goodness, what are these guys even doing in the game?’ ” Bowen said. “They figured we were nothing and that they’d polish us off easy, but that definitely didn’t happen.”

What happened was Fullerton put some major-league fear into the Bruins before losing, 86-80, in front of 7,569 in Pauley Pavilion.

What happened was Titan forward Agee Ward played the game of his life, making 14 of 18 shots and scoring 30 points.

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What happened was Fullerton (3-4) fought off every surge UCLA (6-0) threw at the Titans, erased a 12-point deficit early in the second half and took several leads late in the game.

What happened was Fullerton sprung its matchup zone on UCLA in the second half and that appeared to confuse the Bruins, an excellent outside shooting team.

What happened was UCLA fans were actually chanting, ‘Dee-fense! Dee-fense!’ in the final three minutes. Against Cal State Fullerton.

“We definitely put a scare into them,” said Fullerton guard Joe Small, who scored two first-half points but got hot in the second half to finish with 14. “Most people didn’t think we had a chance, but we got some respect tonight.”

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That, the Titans did. UCLA forward Don MacLean admitted the Bruins took Fullerton lightly. At least for the first several minutes.

“We overlooked them, but once we realized they were playing well, we had to snap out of that,” said MacLean, who scored 23 points but made only eight of 17 shots. “A lot of teams come in here all fired up and just fizzle out, but they played great. They hit their shots, they crashed the boards, they played aggressively. You have to give them credit.”

Bowen, who scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds, could sense a mood shift in the Bruins early on. Fullerton led by as many as five, 27-22, in the first half.

“In the beginning of the game they were cocky, but that’s the way those guys are,” Bowen said. “We played against them in the L.A. Summer League, and they think their God’s gift to basketball. But once they saw we could play with them, they had to hide the cockiness and get down to business before they lost.”

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The Bruins got down to business with a 9-0 first-half run that gave them a 31-27 lead, and it appeared UCLA might begin to pull away from Fullerton. But the Titans kept coming back.

“I’m really proud of the kids--it really took an effort by them,” Titan Coach John Sneed said. “We were in a position to win the game and that gave us great confidence. We weathered several storms and came back with our own run in the second half.”

No coach likes to lose, but Sneed had to be happy with some of his team’s developments Monday night. Sunderland played another solid game at point guard, scoring eight points, passing out five assists and turning the ball over only five times.

Reserve center Sean Williams played aggressively but under control, grabbing seven rebounds and blocking three shots. Fullerton outrebounded UCLA, 41-33.

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“We did a hell of a job tonight--we truly did,” Bowen said. “They couldn’t stop us. If we carry this type of intensity into the (Big West) Conference season, we’re going to be all right.”


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