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COLLEGE BASKETBALL * BIG WEST TOURNAMENTS

Utah State Rolls Past Titans

College basketball: Aggie defense takes control, as Fullerton is beaten, 74-43 in first round of tournament.

March 09, 2001|LON EUBANKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Utah State's defense and depth were too much for Cal State Fullerton Thursday in the first round of the Big West Conference tournament.

The second-seeded Aggies (25-5) held Fullerton to 17 points in the first half and rolled to a 74-43 victory in front of 1,915 at the Anaheim Convention Center. Utah State advanced to the semifinal round today at 6 p.m. against Boise State.

It was the fewest points for the Titans since they scored 35 in a season-opening loss at Oregon State.

"We hang our hat on the defensive end of the court," Utah State Coach Stew Morrill said. "I was pleased with the way our defense set the tone for the game. We take a lot of pride in that."

But it wasn't just Utah State's defense that overwhelmed Fullerton (5-23). The Aggies shot 70% from the field on 14 of 20 in the first half, and finished at 53.1%.

"It was a situation where they came out and jumped on us early," Titan Coach Donny Daniels said. "It kind of started and ended there."

Fullerton shot only 30.5% from the field and was five of 12 on free throws.

"We missed layups, we missed three-pointers and we missed pull-up jumpers," Daniels said. "Their defense had a lot to do with that. They're very physical and athletic with a lot of size."

Ike Harmon, who ranks third in Fullerton career scoring, was the only Titan player to reach double figures. Harmon had 12 points and a team-leading nine rebounds in his final college game.

The Titans made only two of 22 shots from behind the arc. Freshman guard Ryan Dillon, who made five of 10 three-pointers when the Titans lost at Utah State by 12 points in mid-February, was shut out on seven three-point attempts this time.

Fullerton went more than four minutes without a point after a three-point basket by Kevin Richardson with slightly more than six minutes left in the first half. Utah State scored 14 consecutive points before a jump shot by Babacar Camara broke the streak with 1:20 left.

Utah State got 39 points from its reserves, with senior forward Dion Bailey getting a career-high 13 points. The Aggies needed only 24 minutes from all-conference selection Shawn Daniels, who scored 11 points go with nine rebounds.

"I was elated with the way our bench played, but our starters set the tempo for the game," Morrill said. "It was fun for me to see us play that hard. It's easy to look at Fullerton's record and not realize they've played some good games lately."

The 31-point margin was Utah State's most decisive conference tournament victory. Morrill said his team will need another strong effort on defense today against Boise State. Utah State split with Boise State in two regular-season games, winning, 82-64, at home but losing, 78-77, in overtime at Boise.

While the season was a disappointment for the Titans, Harmon said he expects a bright future for the program under Daniels.

"If we would have more players stay healthy, we could have had a better season this year," Harmon said. "But there's no doubt in my mind that Fullerton is going to be good in the future. I have no regrets about coming to Fullerton."

Harmon finished his career with 1,557 points. He had 662 rebounds, also third among Fullerton's career leaders.

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