Titans Again Set Themselves Up for a Comeback, and Beat USD

Times Staff Writer

Something about a lead doesn’t sit right with Cal State Fullerton.

It’s as if this Titan team, which has had so much go wrong, doesn’t know what to do with success.

Fullerton, a team that specializes in comebacks, dug a 14-point hole Thursday, then stormed back to take a 68-66 victory over the University of San Diego on Derek Jones’ leaning, one-handed 12-foot jumper with 2 seconds left.

San Diego called a timeout with 1 second remaining to set up a final play, but Danny Means’ 30-footer at the buzzer wasn’t close.


“We play our best when we get down,” Jones said. “It shows we have a little character and a little heart.”

Fullerton Coach John Sneed appreciates that but could do with a little less cardiac stress.

“I didn’t want this again,” Sneed said. “I’m getting tired of these comebacks. But it shows the type of kids we have.”

Jones’ shot was set up by a steal by freshman guard Wayne Williams with 33 seconds remaining. Fullerton called time, then held the ball until 10 seconds remained, trying to set up a shot for Cedric Ceballos, who finished with 18 points.


But Ceballos was covered, and Jones faked left and drove as the clock ran down.

“It was the kind of situation you dream about,” said Jones, who finished with 13 points.

The comebacks have become routine for Fullerton, which has rallied in all 3 of its games this season, taking a 2-point victory over Utah after trailing by 13, and losing to Pepperdine by 4 after coming from 15 behind.

Fullerton used an 11-0 run early in the game against San Diego to go up, 15-4, but let the lead evaporate late in the half. San Diego went on a 16-0 run in the final 3 minutes of the half and the first 3 of the second half, taking a 43-29 lead.


“I guess we just have problems when we get up. We get relaxed, a little lackadaisical,” Jones said.

Fullerton went to work after a timeout, and outscored San Diego, 23-8, to take a 52-51 lead with 8 minutes left. Backup point guard Marlon Vaughn scored all 7 of his points in that stretch.

Fullerton went up by 4 when Mark Hill completed a 3-point play after picking up a loose ball and putting it in, drawing a foul.

Then with the lead back to 3, John Sykes blocked a San Diego shot, Williams saved it and pushed it upcourt to Hill, who made a touch pass to Ceballos for a dunk and a 63-58 lead with 3:32 left.


But then San Diego scored 6 points on a single possession, taking a 64-63 with 2:23 left.

“That could have been the turning point in the game,” Sneed said.

The Toreros accomplished that after an intentional foul was called on Hill, defending against Dondi Bell on a fast break. Bell made both shots, then scored on the awarded possession and was fouled. He missed the free throw, but Kelvin Woods got the rebound and was fouled, making both free throws.

Bell and freshman guard Gylan Dottin, the former Saddleback High star, led San Diego with 15 points each.


San Diego (3-2) took a 66-64 lead on a basket by Kelvin Woods inside. Woods was fouled by John Sykes on the play, but missed the free throw. Fullerton tied the score when San Diego was called for goal-tending on a shot by Jones with 1:16 left.

“I was really disappointed with how we blew a lead,” Sneed said. “One of the major things we needed to improve on was shot selection, and we slacked up when we had the lead. Once we get the lead we have to keep it. We just get flat.”

But once the Titans were down, they knew from experience they could come back.

“I let em know, just like always, we have to creep back in the thing. You can’t get it back all at once.”


Fullerton, off to a surprising 2-1 start, returns to Titan Gym for a game Saturday against Sonoma State, a Division II team.