A Shot of Morton Not Enough to Cure Fullerton's Malaise

Times Staff Writer

Richard Morton scored 38 points Thursday night. He scored on jumpers and leaners and delayed releases. He made shots from beyond the three-point line and he made them on Teflon smooth drives to the basket.

He scored more points than any Cal State Fullerton player has scored in a Division I game, breaking the record of 36 set by Leon Wood in 1982.

Richard Morton did all that and he lost.

Fullerton dropped the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. game to Irvine, 81-73. The Titans, despite Morton's scoring, trailed in double figures for most of the second half.

They trailed and they lost because besides Morton, only one other Fullerton player, Henry Turner with 13, scored in double figures.

This isn't the first time something like this has happened. Oh no. Twelve games into the season Morton's back is becoming well accustomed to the weight of Fullerton's hopes. And he's finding many times it is just too much.

He scored 30 against Weber State, but Fullerton lost, 81-77.

He scored 34 against New Orleans but Fullerton was blitzed, 80-57.

He had 26 against Cal State Long Beach but Fullerton lost, 76-69.

"I'm starting to feel worn down," he said. "Teams are jumping people out at me, and right now, no one else is scoring. It puts a lot of pressure on me and I feel it. It's getting very tough."

It all means that off the court Morton is getting accustomed to flashing a half smile, shaking the hands of people who congratulate him for whatever recent feat and mention, oh yeah, too bad about the team.

The team is 4-8 and 0-3 in PCAA play. Richard Morton is "phenomenal," as Bill Mulligan, UC Irvine coach, puts it.

But these days, Morton doesn't think so. He doesn't have any problems with the way he's playing, he thinks he's playing well. But when he looks at the season so far the best he can say is, "I'm trying to hold it together. I guess being a captain, that's my responsibility. I think once I get down about this season, the team will fall apart."

As if that hasn't already happened offensively. With the exception of Morton and Turner, the only two players to average in double figures, the Titans look meek offensively.

Centers Vincent Blow, Oval Miller and John Sykes combined for eight points Thursday. The team shot 43% from the floor, even though Morton made 14 of 22 shots (63.6%).

What's worse than poor shooting, is not shooting at all. Morton and Turner were the only Fullerton players to take more than nine shots.

"I can see the guys getting hesitant out there," Morton said. "Instead of looking for their shots, they're looking for me. I tell them to look for their own shot, that I'll score my points."

Actually, it will be when Morton stops scoring so many points that Fullerton will win. When the other Fullerton players stop searching out Morton, and look instead 10 feet in the air.

"I hope it will come," Morton said. "We need something right now."

This season Richard Morton has always been there to give Fullerton what it needs, but as it's becoming painfully apparent, his best is often not enough.

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