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Fullerton Hangs On to End Skid : College basketball: Titans get another victory on the road, taking advantage of San Jose State turnovers.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Cal State Fullerton was picked to finish last in the Big West basketball race this year, but San Jose State clearly has been playing as though it deserved to be.

When the teams met Thursday night at the Civic Auditorium, it was hard to tell any difference between them for a while in the first half. They both were struggling.

But the Titans had just enough firepower in the second half, along with the poise down the stretch, to emerge with a 69-60 victory and snap a three-game losing streak.

The loss left the Spartans (1-13) winless in six Big West games. Fullerton (5-9) climbed to 3-3 in the conference, and Coach Bob Hawking was just happy to get away with a third Big West victory on the road.

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“We’re road warriors,” Hawking said, smiling.

Reserve guard Chris St. Clair scored 17 points, tying his career high, and center Winston Peterson had 16. Guard James French was solid as the Titan playmaker down the stretch and finished with 12 points, all in the second half. French was four for eight from the field, giving him 18 field goals in 27 shots over the last three games.

The Titans went up by nine points early in the second half before the Spartans surged to take the lead, 52-46, with 5:11 remaining. But St. Clair connected on two three-point shots and David Frigout hit a layup to put the Titans on top, 54-53. Fullerton never trailed again.

Peterson broke open inside for two short jump shots, and the Titans closed it with French and St. Clair shooting free throws when the Spartans were forced to foul.

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“It’s tough to win on the road,” Hawking said. “I knew they’d give us a game. They looked at it as a game they could win and they competed hard. We knew they’d been struggling statistically, and you have to be sure they don’t break out of it against you.”

Hawking felt his team’s defensive intensity went up a notch after being below par in the recent 95-82 loss to Nevada at home.

“James really helped us in the second half,” Hawking said. “He had some big baskets when they were making their run. He’s a former Bay Area kid, so it’s good to see him have a good game close to home.”

San Jose State Coach Stan Morrison also said French played a pivotal role in the second half. “Fullerton played with more poise than we did late in the game,” he said. “French and St. Clair were the key to that. French played very intelligently.”

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Morrison said his team’s 22 turnovers, compared to 14 for the Titans, were costly.

“That’s way too many turnovers in a game this low scoring,” he said. “And we had several down the stretch. We also showed some poor judgment with gambles defensively that led to layups for them.”

Fullerton made only nine of 24 shots from the field (38%) in the first half. The Spartans were even worse, hitting seven of 26 (26%) to go with 11 first-half turnovers.

Both teams improved in the second half. Fullerton shot 43% for the game; San Jose State hit 40%, helped by 53% shooting from the floor in the second half.

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Each team had scored only 14 points 11 1/2 minutes into the game.

“I’m real disappointed,” Morrison said. “I thought we would win the game. But Fullerton is quick and we weren’t strong against their press in the second half. We were very tentative against it down the stretch.”


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