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Titan Offense Clicks Into High Gear

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Cal State Fullerton found another Big West team it could manhandle without John Williams on Thursday night.

Until then, Fullerton’s only two victories since Williams was sidelined because of a broken wrist came against UC Irvine, which has won only once this season.

But the Titans were in rare offensive form in a 110-98 victory over Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in front of 934 in Titan Gym, shooting 60.3% from the floor and making 10 of 19 three-point shots.

Fullerton’s point total was its highest since a 111-99 overtime victory over Utah State in 1992 and the most points in a regulation game since a 117-94 victory over U.S. International in 1985.

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Chris Dade scored 22 points and Chris St. Clair 20 to lead Fullerton (12-13, 5-10 in the Big West), but the key was a strong supporting cast.

Center DeVaughn Wright and forward Mark Richardson each had career scoring highs. Wright had 17 points and eight rebounds, and Richardson 16 points with seven rebounds. Reserve forward Craig Whitehead also had 16 points.

“We were so reliant on John for so long, but now Devo and Mark are really stepping up,” Coach Bob Hawking said. “We wanted to be able to attack them inside, and we certainly were successful at doing that.”

Wright said it has taken a while for his new role to settle in.

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“Before, we could pound the ball into John, and he’d do the rest,” Wright said. “And when John was in there, I was the guy setting the picks. Now I’m in the low post with an opportunity to score. It seemed like every time I got the ball tonight, there was no one around me. I’m playing with a lot more confidence now.”

Fullerton’s strong guard play helped the inside game.

Dade was eight for 13 from the field and St. Clair six for 11 on three-point attempts, but Wright, Richardson and Whitehead missed only six of 26 shots among them.

“We handled their press well, and shot well, but the post players stepping up was the big thing,” St. Clair said.

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The Titans made only 14 turnovers. “That’s probably a low-water mark against their kind of pressing defense,” Hawking said. “We made up our mind to attack the press and if you can do that, you can get some decent shots.”

For Cal Poly ( 13-16, 5-10), it was a ninth loss without a victory on the road.

The Mustangs, who rely heavily on their three-point shooting, made only 11 of 29 attempts from beyond the arc. Freshman guard Mike Wozniak scored 27 points and Shanta Cotright had 26, but Cal Poly couldn’t compete with Fullerton’s strength inside.

“It’s not often that we play a team that is no taller than we are,” Wright said.

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Cal Poly Coach Jeff Schneider was surprised by the the Titans’ play inside. “Defensively, I thought we did a poor job,” he said.

The Titans shot 58.8% from the field in the first half, including making seven of 12 three-point attempts, and led, 49-36, at halftime.

The score was tied, 34-34, before Fullerton scored 13 consecutive points. Richardson got two straight baskets inside, and passed to Dade for a fast break layup to get the run rolling. St. Clair also connected on his fourth three-pointer of the first half in seven attempts.

Fullerton had a 21-point lead in the first three minutes of the second half and a 26-point lead when Wright’s dunk put the Titans over 100 points with almost four minutes remaining.

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