Just how much Cal State Fullerton's difficulties Saturday night had to do with Henry Turner's foul trouble was illustrated plainly a couple of minutes into the second half against Cal State Long Beach before a sellout crowd of 2,279 at University Gym.
Morlon Wiley faked left and drove the lane, and Turner fouled him on the shot, which fell good. Wiley made the free throw, giving the 49ers their first lead of the game, 36-35, and Turner, saddled with his fourth foul, went to the bench.
Fullerton was able to take small--and brief--leads after that, but Long Beach ended with a 76-69 victory in the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. opener for both teams. It was the 49ers' first victory over Fullerton since 1984, breaking an 0-7 streak.
Turner, who had scored 120 points in the past five games, finished with just 6, easily his season low. He got his third foul just five minutes into the game, and played only 14 minutes the entire game.
"It's very difficult for us to play without a guy like Turner," said George McQuarn, Fullerton coach.
That Fullerton (4-6, 0-1) had a chance without him was remarkable, even if the result was not: another road game, another Fullerton loss.
The Titans, precisely one month into the season, have not won away from home in six tries.
Even without Turner, who played only five minutes in the first half, Fullerton played well enough to hold a 35-31 lead at halftime, thanks in part to the play of Vincent Blow, who scored 8 of his 11 points in the first half--far more than his 3.8-point average.
Turner wasn't the only Titan with foul trouble, though. Blow and Bobby Adair, two inside players, fouled out.
McQuarn, who for a change was pleased with his team's effort in a road game, said: "When we stopped playing hard, it was more because of the foul trouble than anything else."
Despite trailing by as many as seven in the second half, the Titans were surprisingly close at the end.
John Sykes completed a three-point play off an offensive rebound with 29 seconds remaining to cut the lead to 73-69.
But at the other end, where the 49ers had Wiley on the line, things fell apart.
Wiley missed his first free throw, which seemed a boon to the Titans. But the 49ers' Jeff Eastin rebounded, forcing Fullerton to foul him. He made only one of two himself, but Rigo Moore rebounded, foiling the Titans again. The Titans then fouled Wiley, who made both shots. Even when the Titans got the ball out of bounds after that, they turned it over before crossing halfcourt.
"The last 26 seconds pretty much symbolized the way we played the last three minutes," McQuarn said. "Those two missed free throws, and they grabbed both rebounds. If we got the ball--the lead was four points--we would have had Morton or (Randall) Moos take a three-pointer."
Instead, they never got the chance.
The Titans have had this kind of late-game trouble in their other road losses as well. With the exception of a loss at New Orleans, none have been by more than nine points. But Fullerton, with chances to win, hasn't come through.
"More than anything else, we just don't quite make the plays we have to," McQuarn said.
Long Beach (7-3, 1-0), under its first-year coach, Joe Harrington, is off to its best start in five years.
Wiley led the 49ers with 24 points, and Andre Purry added 18.
It was largely Wiley's second-half play that helped Long Beach go ahead. His three-point play gave the 49ers their first lead, and a short jumper four minutes into the half made the lead three. Less than two minutes later, his steal and fast-break feed to Eastin made it 48-46. Down the stretch, he made four of five free throws, including the final two points of the game with 20 seconds remaining.
McQuarn took a bit of a different tack against Long Beach, starting swingman Van Anderson instead of Adair, who had started all but one other game. McQuarn said the move was largely to counter Long Beach's smaller and quicker personnel, but it didn't hurt that Anderson was coming off a career-high 22 point performance against Brown. Anderson didn't do much to ensure another start right away, though, finishing with three points, making just 1 of 7 field goals and 1 of 6 free throws.
Adair scored eight points, but fouled out despite playing only 19 minutes.
The Titans don't get an immediate break from their road woes. Monday, they play New Mexico State at Las Cruces, N.M.