Kick in the Pants Helps Long Beach Boot Titans

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Unable to shake pesky Cal State Fullerton and annoyed because of it, Long Beach State needed a little inspiration. Coach Seth Greenberg gladly provided the spark--or kick--with his halftime talk.

The 49ers listened well, turning a three-point halftime lead into a second-half rout Wednesday night in a 79-66 Big West Conference victory before 3,218 at the Pyramid.

"We just talked about giving up too many easy baskets," Greenberg said. "We talked about getting focused."

Simple but effective, the 49ers said.

"Coach told us to start playing Long Beach State defense, because we weren't in the first half," forward Akeli Jackson said. "Once we did that, everything got going."

As did Long Beach (7-4, 2-0 in conference), which is alone atop the Big West standings. Jackson and guard James Cotton were again big factors for Long Beach, leading the charge that turned a 38-35 halftime lead into a 46-36 advantage with 16:25 remaining.

Jackson scored a career-high 19 points and had a team-leading 13 rebounds. Long Beach outrebounded Fullerton, 40-23.

"It's a team thing out there, but my confidence is so high right now," Jackson said. "Personally, when I step out on that floor, I don't think anybody can play with me."

Greenberg is especially pleased with Jackson's play, and he has been for quite a while now.

"Akeli was very effective on the boards," Greenberg said. "It's big any time you have that big of an edge on the boards, and Akeli was obviously a big part of that."

Cotton led all scorers with 26 points. He has scored at least 25 points in each of the past five games.

"This is the way I have to keep playing--assertive," Cotton said. "That guy earlier in the season wasn't me. This is me now."

Fullerton (2-10, 1-3) just didn't have enough to keep pace, Coach Bob Hawking said.

"They've got five bullets on the floor the whole time, so you just can't stop one guy and get it done," Hawking said. "I thought they played well in the first half as well. If anything, we stepped down a notch."

The Titans cut the lead to 51-46 on two free throws by guard Ali Nayab with 12 minutes remaining. However, Cotton boosted the lead to 54-46 with a three-pointer seconds later and the 49ers kept rolling. Guard Chris Dade led Fullerton with 16 points.

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