Cal State Fullerton's basketball team spent the better part of two days in airports trying to get here and, by late Sunday afternoon, it probably wished it had stayed home in bed.
Not only did the Titans lose, 59-45, to the University of Portland, they lost senior point guard Kevin Henderson for an indefinite period with a severely sprained right ankle.
Henderson, the team's leading scorer with a 21-points-per-game average, was driving for a layup early in the first half and came down on someone's foot. He squirmed on the floor and his moans were audible throughout the Chiles Center.
"It's at least a severe sprain," said Jerry Lloyd, the Titan trainer. "We'll get X-rays when we get home. I would have to say he's very questionable for the Pepperdine game (Dec. 28)."
Henderson wasn't the only thing missing from the Titan attack. Kerry Boagni and Richard Morton, Fullerton's Nos. 2 and 3 scorers, must have left their shooting touch at Ontario Airport. At one point early in the second half, they were a combined 1 for 17 from the floor.
Boagni, who was averaging 15 points a game, finished 0 for 9 from the field and was scoreless.
"That was without a doubt the worst game of my collegiate career," Boagni said, shaking his head in disgust. "It was just one of those things, I guess."
Morton finally found the range late in the second half, and finished with 11 points, hitting 4 of 13 field goal attempts.
"I have no doubts that Boagni and Morton will bounce back," Titan Coach George McQuarn said. "But Henderson's injury is serious . . . real serious.
Only 911 fans saw the Pilots play what Coach Jack Avina called "easily our best game of the season."
"We have to qualify that win with what they had to go through get here," Avina said, refering to the flight cancellations that forced the game, scheduled for Saturday night, to be switched to Sunday afternoon. "There's no question that was a factor."
The officiating may have been a bigger factor, though. The Pilots, 7-0 at home and 0-2 on the road this year, shot 37 free throws, making 27. The Titans (7-4) attempted six, making three.
"There were just too many things to overcome," McQuarn said after denying the travel problems had any effect on his team. "The three biggest factors were the loss of Henderson, the shooting of Boagni and Morton in the first half, and the fact the officials wouldn't allow us to overcome those things with our defense."
McQuarn picked up his first technical foul of the season--and did a pretty good Michael Jackson imitation in the process--when he hopped around in front of the Titan bench, screaming for a traveling call after the Pilots' Fred Harris did a bit of dance himself to save a loose ball.
Portland was ahead by just three points (39-36) at the time, but the Pilots pulled steadily away. Portland forward Tony Havior led all scorers with 17 points (hitting 7 of 8 free throws) and center Dan Hunt, who was averaging four points a game, had a season-high 15 (sinking 9 of 12 at thr free throw line).
"The key to this win was our ability to keep the game at our tempo," Avina said. "We wanted to keep the score in the 50s or 60s."
The officiating-good or bad-certainly helped. The game seldom proceeded for a full minute without a whistle. And the Pilots got in about three weeks worth of free-throw practice.
The Titans, who had won five straight with their aggressive defense and the ensuing fast breaks it created, seldom got a fast break opportunity because the Pilots were shooting free throws on most of their possessions.
"They were reaching in and grabbing the whole game," Avina said, defending the officiating. "A big part of their game is intimidation."
With Boagni and Morton combining to shoot 18% from the floor, and Henderson laying on the bench with his foot encased in ice, Fullerton isn't going to intimidate many junior high school teams.
As holiday excursions go, the Titans would just as soon stay home then take a sleigh ride through the great Northwest next year.