Cal State Fullerton has blown its cover. There will be no sneaking up on anybody now. The Titans are anything but inconspicuous.
An 80-60 nonconference victory over Pepperdine Wednesday night at Titan Gym exposed the Titans for what they are, and Pepperdine Coach Jim Harrick expressed what seemed to be the prevailing sentiment when he said: "They're real good."
Harrick made that remark after watching Fullerton hand the Waves their fifth straight loss as his team stumbled and bumbled its way to 23 turnovers.
Junior forward Henry Turner led the Titans with 17 points. Junior forward Derek Jones had 13 points and 7 rebounds, presenting further evidence that he has returned to form after a one-year layoff from competitive basketball. Richard Morton, left out of the starting lineup for being late to the Titans' pregame meal, had 14 points, making 6 of 11 shots.
It took Pepperdine nearly five minutes to score. The Waves left the court at halftime trailing, 39-22, and were outscored, 9-2, at the outset of the second half. By the middle of the second half, Harrick found himself on the wrong end of a 30-point margin.
"I've been on the other end of games like this," said Harrick, whose teams have reached the NCAA tournament four of the last five seasons. "Sure, I'm disappointed. But you just have to take the bitter with the sweet."
So, the word is out. Since opening the season with a 70-69 loss at Texas Tech, the Titans have won five straight, and the last three of those have come against teams that were involved in postseason tournaments last March.
Said Morton: "We're trying to sneak up on some teams, but that's going to be hard now that we've beaten some quality opponents."
Fullerton Coach George McQuarn could find few flaws in his team's play. "There were hardly any dead spots out there," he said. "Sometimes, you'll see teams exchange spurts. We had a 36-minute spurt."
The last four minutes were rather messy. In fact, Pepperdine was a little sloppy for most of the second half. Thoroughly frustrated by turnovers and few second-shot opportunities, the Waves decided to take out some of those frustrations with some physical play.
Center Levy Middlebrooks, who came into the game averaging more than 10 rebounds a game, finished with only 4. He also picked up his fourth foul at 17:09 of the second half.
With Middlebrooks in foul trouble, Pepperdine was outrebounded, 30-22.