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Titans Play With Ivy League Skill, Win Fourth in a Row

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Almost everything went right for Cal State Fullerton Monday night in its basketball game against Columbia.

At least, it did for about 35 of the 40 minutes.

Fullerton led by 25 points with less than five minutes to play, but Titan Coach Bob Hawking went deep into his roster after that, and the final margin was reduced to 91-81 by Columbia’s full-court press.

But even though things slipped a little late in the game, the Titans still were able to enjoy a relatively easy seventh nonconference victory in nine games and their fourth in a row. It was Fullerton’s highest scoring total of the season.

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“This is really great after what we went through last year,” Titan forward John Williams said, thinking back on the 6-20 season.

No Fullerton team had won four consecutive games since the 1990-91 team won eight after two season-opening defeats. That was the last Fullerton team to go 7-2.

Columbia (2-6) was no match for Fullerton’s speed and quickness, and certainly not the Titans’ 60.4% shooting from the field. The 1,230 in Titan Gym saw Fullerton’s best shooting effort since 1991.

“We got a lot of inside shots and that helped,” Hawking said.

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The Lions tried to counter Fullerton’s strength inside by putting up 35 three-point shots, the most ever attempted against the Titans, but made only 10. Columbia took 69 shots and made 27 (39.1%).

Fullerton made 22 of 36 free throws and had a 41-32 rebounding advantage.

“We played well for 35 minutes,” Hawking said. “It was unfortunate that our guys in there at the end struggled against the press. But it seemed like a safe cushion at that point, and those guys work just as hard in practice as the players in the regular rotation. We wanted to get them some time.”

Williams led the Titans with 22 points in 24 minutes of play, and guard Chris Dade had 16 after scoring fewer than 10 points the past two games. Reserve guard Dane Plock got 12, making three of four three-point shots, and Craig Whitehead and Ali Nayab each had 11.

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Guard C.J. Thompkins, the leading scorer in the Ivy League, led the Lions with 23 points, but he had only seven with about seven minutes to play. He had made only two of 12 shots at that point.

“We did a real good job on him in the first half,” Hawking said. “Chris Dade is our defensive stopper, and he was on him most of the time. Our idea was to defend against the three-point offense, and I think we did that.”

Fullerton had struggled in the first half in each of its last two games against Pepperdine and Brown, but Monday led, 37-26, at the break.

Columbia, which hadn’t played in 20 days, started slowly and never was a serious threat after Fullerton built a 13-point cushion late in the first half. The Lions made only seven of 25 (28%) from the field in the first half.

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“We felt the first half was going to be important for us, and we wanted to come out well,” said point guard Chris St. Clair, who had nine points and six assists.

But it was Fullerton’s surge at the start of the second half that was the difference for the second game in a row. The Titans went on a 21-6 run in the first eight minutes of the second half to build a 25-point cushion.

“I was glad that we didn’t give up,” Columbia Coach Armond Hill said. “But we didn’t resume practice until Dec. 26 after exams and the holidays, and that didn’t help us. But you have to give Fullerton credit. They executed well. We have to rely on our three-point shooting right now. We don’t have a big force in the middle.”


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