Cal State Fullerton's third game of the season was so different from its first two that, afterward, the Titans' Eugene Jackson could only shake his head and smile.
"Real different," Jackson said. "This game was real different."
Fullerton was winless in its first two games and had struggled in almost every phase of the game. But against Portland in Fullerton's home opener Thursday night, there was hardly any struggle at all as the Titans opened a lead of as many as 28 points on their way to an 85-66 victory in front of 2,210 in Titan Gym.
Jackson, who had averaged fewer than nine points a game, scored a career-high 20, and in doing so became the first Titan other than Richard Morton to score more than 10 points in a game this season. Van Anderson, filling in for Henry Turner, who is out for at least one more game with torn ligaments in his right foot, scored 12 points.
Morton still led the Titans, scoring 27, but this time he led a far more balanced offense, and one that shot 61% from the field, nearly 19 percentage points higher than its season average.
"I thought we probably played as well as we're capable of playing at this point in the season for the first 20 minutes," Fullerton Coach George McQuarn said. "The 20 minutes we played in the first half had to be the best 20 minutes anybody has played against Portland this year."
Portland (0-4) lost to Oregon, Washington and Oregon State in its first three games.
Portland made its first four shots and led, 9-8, less than four minutes into the game. But Fullerton's tough man-to-man defense and a dry shooting spell by the Pilots changed the game.
Portland didn't score for more than 10 minutes, and by the time Robert Phillips made two free throws with 5:46 left in the half, Fullerton had taken a 28-11 lead that only grew bigger.
Portland went 14 minutes between field goals, finally scoring a basket with 2:16 remaining in the half, on a shot by Rodd Miller that hardly put a dent in the Fullerton lead.
The Titans led by as many as 26 in the first half, and went into the locker room with a 42-18 lead.
The Titans didn't play as well in the second half, but they didn't need to.
McQuarn was less than pleased with the second half, but attributed the letup in part to fatigue and the lack of depth caused by the absence of Turner, as well as Vincent Blow and Randal Moos, who have been ill and did not play.
Portland, which was led by Phillips' 14 points, shot only 37% in the first half, and finished at 47%.
It was a night in which the Fullerton offense finally diversified. Too often, the Titans had relied on Morton, in particular his three-point shooting. But with Morton shooting just 38% from the field, that wasn't working.
The Titans had taken 30 three-point shots in the first two games, making 10. Against Portland, Morton, the only one to attempt a three-pointer, was 2 of 3.
With the lead, of course, there was less reason to attempt three-pointers.
Anderson scored his 12 points on 4 of 5 shooting from the field, with several of his shots coming on the fast break.
Fullerton also got a combined 22 points from Bobby Adair, Oval Miller and John Sykes at the center and power forward positions, an improvement over earlier showings.
Anderson was the leading rebounder with six, and Sykes had five, including three offensive rebounds.
Despite the improvement, McQuarn was still cautious.
"We've still got a lot of work to do," he said.