When Cal State Long Beach's DeAnthony Langston hit a short baseline jumper to send Saturday's game into overtime, Cal State Fullerton's basketball team had to be experiencing a sickening feeling of deja vu.
Thursday night, Fullerton lost a 13-point lead over New Mexico State and then its Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. opener when the Aggies rallied for a 68-61 overtime win.
Saturday's game at Titan Gym was beginning to look like a not-so-instant replay. But the Titans, who blew a 16-point second-half advantage this time, bounced back in overtime and came away with an 85-80 conference win before a crowd of 1,327. Fullerton is 1-1 in the PCAA and 8-6 overall. Long Beach is 0-1 in the conference and 4-8 overall.
A couple of weeks ago, when the Titans were 7-3 and had averaged 93 points in five straight wins, the idea of splitting their first two conferences games--both at home against probable second-division opponents--was not to be considered a possibility. In the Titans' defense, however, they are not the same team since Dec. 21, when senior point guard Kevin Henderson, who was averaging 20 points a game, went down with a sprained ankle/broken foot that will keep him out of action for at least three more games.
Fullerton Coach George McQuarn has used Henderson's absence as a motivational ploy, and the team has responded with inspired performances in the early going of all three Henderson-less outings. And while it seems to have been able to overcome the loss of his 20 points and his leadership, it is barely able to get by with one less player.
Sophomore guard Richard Morton has continued to provide the needed offense. He had a career-high 32 points Saturday, hitting on 11 of 18 shots from the floor. And inside player Herman Webster has emerged to give Fullerton an added dimension. Saturday, Webster scored 17 points and grabbed 7 rebounds.
But the Titans often win because of their intense man-to-man defense. And lately, that defense has been running out of gas in the second half. Saturday, only seven Titans played more than two minutes, and the reserves accounted for just two points (a pair of clutch overtime free throws by Alexander Hamilton).