Aside from the Runnin' Utes - 84-63 victors over Cal State-Fullerton in the Huntsman Center - most folks had California on their minds Tuesday.

Some wanted to be in Anaheim for Utah's Freedom Bowl win over Arizona (approximately half of the 11,143 tickets sold went unused), while others (the Titans) simply wanted to escape a smothering Ute defense by going home. And finally, one prominent figure dreamed of being in a warmer climate."I wish I could have been there because of the weather," mused Utah coach Rick Majerus, who sent his football counterpart a FAX before the game.

Whatever the case may be, the basketball team did its part to maintain a local focus - and then some.

"I thought we played hard pretty much the whole game," said Majerus. "I thought we played hard and I thought we played smart."

Utah improved to 8-2 overall thanks to the play of Keith Van Horn, Brandon Jessie and Ben Melmeth. Scoring 24, 19 and 12 points respectively, the Utes combined superior play on both ends of the floor to claim their seventh consecutive victory.

"They did a great job," said Fullerton coach Bob Hawking. "Both halves they physically dominated us on the boards."

Utah outrebounded its guests 42-26 and limited Titan scoring leader Winston Peterson to just one field goal and five points.

"He was real frustrated tonight," Hawking said. "No doubt about it."

Credit Melmeth.

"I thought Ben played an outstanding game," said Majerus. "(Shutting Peterson down) was a big goal of ours. I was so pleased with the job Ben and (Mike) Doleac did."

Defense set the tone as Utah never trailed. Breaking from the gates with an 8-0 run, the Utes led 50-30 just before halftime.

However, it took a 23-6 run to put the Titans away for good. Leading 27-24 with six minutes left in the half, Melmeth, Van Horn and Jessie combined for 20 points in the decisive spurt.

"We had some breakdowns both offensively and defensively," said Hawking. "They capitalized on every mistake we made."

The Titans pulled no closer than 11, at 59-48, down the stretch. In fact, Utah countered six unanswered points with an 18-2 run - holding Fullerton to just two points over eight minutes - to take its biggest lead at 77-50.

Eleven Utes scored, while Chris St. Clair had 14 for the Titans who fell to 3-5 overall.

UTE NOTES: Following the game, Freedom Bowl fans were able to watch most of the second half on the Huntsman Center's scoreboard television screens. Several members of the basketball team were among the viewers . . . Former Salt Lake Community College standout Chuck Overton started at forward for Fullerton and finished with nine points in 28 minutes of action . . . The Utes play host to Northern Arizona Friday.