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Fullerton Runs Afoul in Defeat

Times Staff Writer

When Cal State Fullerton’s Mark Hill hit a 3-point shot that cut New Mexico State’s lead to 4 points with 1 minute 46 seconds remaining Tuesday, the situation looked good for Fullerton.

But there was a problem. The Titans, who had come from 13 points behind, had committed only 4 team fouls.

Before Fullerton sent New Mexico State to the free-throw line, 53 seconds passed. The Aggies then made 6 of 6 shots from the line in the final minute, taking a 65-60 victory in front of 1,603 in Titan Gym in the the Big West Conference opener for both teams.

The foul situation presented a dilemma for Fullerton.

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The Titans could try for a steal, all the while letting time run off the clock.

Or they could foul quickly, putting New Mexico State closer to the bonus. But with the fifth and sixth foul, the Aggies got a new 45 seconds on the shot clock.

“We got caught in a Catch-22,” Coach John Sneed said.

In the end, Fullerton rode the fence, trying for a steal for the first few passes and then fouling.

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The Titans had no luck either way. The Aggies protected the ball and hit their free throws, including 4 consecutive by Jimmy Taylor.

The loss overshadowed a career-high 26-point performance by Hill, who tied a school record by making 6 3-pointers.

Kerry Boagni made 6 3-pointers against New Mexico State in 1986.

Hill made 6 of 9 from 3-point range, and 2 of 3 from closer. He added 4 free throws in 6 attempts as he led the Titans in scoring for the second game in a row.

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He also played tough defense on Jeff McCool, who had been leading the Aggies with a 14-point average, and was averaging 12 points a game from 3-point range.

Against Fullerton, he scored only 6 points, making 1 of 2 from 3-point range.

“Mark played McCool well,” Sneed said. “McCool knows where that 3-point line is, but Mark kept him away.”

Fullerton has lost 4 in a row after a 5-1 start during which the Titans showed remarkable composure.

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But in recent games, the team has been in a state of flux.

--Cedric Ceballos, who averaged 25 points in his first 7 games, finished with 12. Two games ago, he scored only 2 points in a double-overtime loss to New Orleans in a performance he called his worst since he was in grade school. He came back with 16 in a loss to St. Mary’s Friday. Against New Mexico State, he made 4 of 16 shots from the field.

--John Sykes, returning after a 1-game suspension for unspecified reasons, scored 14 points off the bench, making all 6 shots.

--Derek Jones, who had been the second-leading scorer in the early part of the season, struggled with foul trouble, picking up his third in the first half and finishing with a season-low 4 points.

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--And Wayne Williams, the freshman point guard who played a crucial part in two of Fullerton’s early road victories, went scoreless for the second game in a row, missing all 5 shots, 4 from 3-point range.

Fullerton will end its 6-game home stand with a game against Cal State Long Beach in Titan Gym Thursday.

“We had lost 3 and they still came back to play tough tonight,” Sneed said. “That’s a good sign. It was a home game, the conference opener and a TV game, so that was motivation. We’ll have motivation Thursday, because we don’t want to go on the road without a win.”

The victory was the third in a row for New Mexico State (8-3).

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Willie Joseph led the Aggies with 20 points, and Johnny Roberson added 15.

Fullerton rallied after falling behind by 13 less than 3 minutes into the second half after a 3-pointer by Taylor and a short jumper by Joseph at the start of the half gave New Mexico State its biggest lead, 39-26.

New Mexico State had used a 13-0 run to take a 17-7 lead over the Titans during a first-half in which Fullerton made just 8 of 30 shots (27%).

The Aggies made 16 of 28 (57%) in the half, and led, 34-26, at halftime.

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