LOS ANGELES – An impressive showing in the second half could not erase a sluggish start to the game as Cal State Fullerton fell 76-62 to USC on Tuesday night at the Galen Center.
The Titans (2-2) were without leading scorer junior guard Alex Harris who is currently listed as day-to-day with a right ankle sprain.
Trailing by as many as 24 in the game, Cal State Fullerton cut what was a 20-point halftime deficit in half by the 12:20 mark of the second half after producing a 14-0 run that included back-to-back buckets from freshman Sheldon Blackwell – including a three-point play - and was capped by a banked in Marquis Horne three-pointer as the Titans pulled within 57-47.
During that run, Cal State Fullerton held USC (3-1) without a field goal for over five minutes as Julian Jacobs' trey at the 15:39 mark was USC's last bucket until Pe'Shon Howard drained another bucket from long distance with 10:08 remaining on the clock.
But Fullerton would get no closer than a 10-point deficit in the second half as USC outscored the Titans 36-30 in the paint while 7-foot-2 USC center Omar Oraby totaled six of the Trojans' seven blocks.
USC shot 47.2 percent from the floor led by Bryron Wesley's 22-point effort on 7-of-14 shooting. Oraby added 15 points and nine rebounds, while Howard poured in 11 points and dished five assists. Jacobs had all-round game of 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Blackwell led Cal State Fullerton with 14 points – a season high for the freshman from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Horne and Cal State Fullerton senior Michael Williams added 10 points apiece. Freshman Joe Boyd totaled a career-best 10 rebounds – a season best for any Titan during the 2013-14 season.
Fullerton committed a season-high 17 turnovers, and scored a season-low 62 points while shooting a season low 40.3 percent from the floor. The Titans also made only 7-of-18 attempts from the free-throw line.
Cal State Fullerton trailed 45-25 at the half after committing 10 turnovers in the first 20 minutes. It marked the first time during the 2013-14 season that the Titans have trailed at the break.
Fullerton shot a dismal 37.5 percent (9-of-24) from the floor and knocked down just three 3-pointers as Williams led Fullerton with eight points in the first period. USC made 15 trips to the free-throw line in the first half compared to eight for Fullerton, while the Trojans outscored the Titans 26-10 in the paint.
USC claimed an early 6-0 lead after the Titans opened the game with three straight turnovers before taking a shot attempt.
The Trojans built their lead to 18-3 as Fullerton was held without a field goal or nearly five minutes, starting with Fullerton's first bucket of the game on a Williams' jumper and capped with a Gentry dunk as 12:45 remained in the first.
A bucket on Fullerton's next possession from Blackwell cut USC's lead to 18-7 with 12:27 left in the first, but the Trojans once again held the Titans without a field goal for the next three minutes until Williams knocked down a bucket at the 9:31 mark. The stretch was part of a 10-3 run by USC.
The Titans remain on the road, playing San Jose State at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Notes: USC leads the all-time series against Cal State Fullerton, 4-0…Cal State Fullerton holds a record of 7-36 against teams currently in the Pac-12…Nikola Jovanovic's free throw at the 16:02 mark gave USC a 12-2 lead, the first time Cal State Fullerton had trailed by double digits during the season…Michael Williams knocked down the Titans' first three-pointer of the game at the 6:57 mark of the first half, Fullerton entered the game averaging 7.7 treys per game…the game was televised on the Pac-12 Network, Fullerton's second TV game of the season…Cal State Fullerton set season lows in points (62) and shooting percentage (.403) while committing a season-high 17 turnovers.