O'Bryant Leads Burst That Carries Nevada Past Titans

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Up until about six minutes had gone by in the second half, it looked as though it was either team's game.

At that stage, with the score tied at 54, Nevada guard Eathan O'Bryant suddenly took it to a higher level. O'Bryant scored eight consecutive points, including two three-pointers, and the Wolf Pack went on a 15-2 run on the way to a 95-82 Big West Conference basketball victory over Cal State Fullerton Monday in Titan Gym.

"Those two threes seemed to turn it around right there," Nevada Coach Pat Foster said. "Eathan played a great second half. Our first half was pretty mediocre. I think we had a little more manpower than they did, and I think we played about as good as we could play during that four- or five-minute stretch in the second half."

"In the first half, I let them take advantage of me," O'Bryant said. "I knew that I would have to play more aggressively in the second half. I knew it was time to step it up a little and I did that."

Nevada connected on 12 of 20 three-point shots for the game, including seven of 10 in the second half. O'Bryant finished with 23 points, with 21 of them coming in the second half. Reserve guard Shawn Pughsley also was a big contributor in Nevada's three-point flurry, hitting six of 11 from long range, and finishing with 18 points.

The Wolf Pack (7-6) moved to 4-2 in the Big West. Fullerton (4-9) is 2-3 in the conference after suffering its third consecutive loss.

The Titans were hurt by 39.5% shooting in the second half despite a strong performance by guard James French. French, who has struggled through a shooting slump that has lasted much of the season, came out of it with nine field goals in 12 attempts and a total of 23 points, but it wasn't enough to save his team. Center Winston Peterson had 20 points and seven rebounds.

Peterson played 39 minutes. His regular backup, Fred Amos, was dropped from the team this week for a violation of team rules.

The Titans shot 51.6% from the field in the first half with French and Chris Dade, who finished with 13 points, each connecting on three of four shots.

French had managed only five field goals in the first halves of his team's previous 12 games.

"I feel like I'm playing a little better every game," French said. His disappointment was that his improved performance didn't produce a victory. "As a team, though, we came out sort of lazy in the second half. It's something I can't really explain."

The Titans trailed, 32-26, before the guards brought Fullerton back to a 43-41 halftime lead. French and backup guard Chris St. Clair each had five points in the flurry late in the second half.

What appeared to be a good omen for the Titans turned sour in the second half.

The Wolf Pack built a 75-60 led with just over seven minutes left before the Titans managed to cut the deficit to 78-70 with 3:10 remaining.

"It's tough when a team shoots like that from the three-point line," Fullerton Coach Bob Hawking said. "Those threes really broke our back. Eathan was a real key to the game. He's a good little player. He knows how to run his team and he added more scoring tonight."

Hawking said he had tried to recruit O'Bryant before he settled on Nevada.

Fullerton had a 37-36 rebounding advantage and a 13-10 edge on the offensive boards. The Titans committed 12 turnovers, their lowest total of the season.

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