The Dons kept Cal State Fullerton's basketball fortunes in a free fall Friday night.
San Francisco, in its first season under former Ventura College Coach Phil Mathews, shot 50.9% from the field and dominated the boards to overwhelm the Titans, 72-53, in front of 1,460 in Memorial Gym.
The Dons' strong defense helped make it a runaway. It was the fifth time this season the Dons (5-3) have held an opponent to fewer than 60 points and the fifth time a rival has shot less than 40% from the field.
Fullerton (1-5) had 26 turnovers, only three fewer than the school record, and shot only 37.3%.
"Those two factors were tough for us to deal with," said Fullerton Coach Bob Hawking, who saw his team get swept in three games against West Coast Conference teams for the second consecutive year. "We didn't attack their zone very well, and having that many turnovers is really uncharacteristic for us."
Hawking said his team wasn't surprised by the zone. "It wasn't anything we hadn't seen before, but we seemed to get staggered a little by it," he said.
The Dons played without starters M.J. Nodilo and Booker Washington, but senior guard Gerald Walker's scoring and slick passing picked up any slack. Walker, who moved to point guard this season, had 18 points and six assists.
"Walker's a very talented player," Hawking said. "He's definitely one of the best guards on the West Coast."
The Dons also had strong performances inside from three players. Zerrick Campbell had 13 points, John Duggan 12 and Jermaine Galloway 11.
Senior Chuck Overton had 23 points for Fullerton, but help from his teammates was minimal. Forward John Williams was held to six points and starters Ali Nayab and Chris Dade were scoreless. Freshman reserve guard Kenroy Jarrett had 11.
"I thought we were prepared for them," Overton said. "We just didn't play very well. I thought their zone really hurt us."
San Francisco's zone defense was especially troublesome to Fullerton with guards Chris St. Clair out for the remainder of the season and Brian Thomas sidelined for four more weeks with a broken bone in his foot.
The Titans were seven for 21 from three-point range.
"We went to the zone because we knew they had been having trouble from outside, although we play a lot of zone anyway," said Mathews, an assistant at Fullerton in the early 1980s. "Not having St. Clair hurt them. He was probably their best shooter."
St. Clair decided this week to forgo the rest of the season to seek a medical redshirt year after knee surgery at the end of last season.
The Dons shot 51% compared to only 36% for the Titans in the first half. Fullerton fell behind early, managed a brief tie at 12-12 on Jarrett's three-pointer, but San Francisco outscored the Titans, 11-2, with Walker getting seven in a row, to pull ahead, 23-14.
The Dons outscored Fullerton, 15-7, during the remaining seven minutes of the first half for a 36-21 command at the break, then went up by more than 20 points early in the second half. The Dons coasted the rest of the way.
"We're capable of playing with a lot of people, but we can't do it when we give up 26 turnovers," Hawking said. "We're not good enough in other areas to be able to overcome that."
San Francisco scored 30 points off those turnovers. The Dons had 23 turnovers of their own, but Fullerton scored only 17 points off them. San Francisco also had a 35-24 rebounding advantage.