CS Fullerton's Late Magic Disappears in a 60-56 Loss

Times Staff Writer

With this same script, Cal State Fullerton had won other games this season.

They had won by coming from 13 points behind. They had won after John Sykes picked up a loose-ball and stuffed it in the late going. They had won when Wayne Williams made a long-range three-pointer.

But this time, the comeback failed, Sykes' shot rimmed out, and Williams' three-pointer bounded off the heel of the basket just before the buzzer.

Not that even the three-pointer would have been enough. Fullerton got the ball back for the final time trailing by four with four seconds left. It ended that way, with New Mexico State taking a 60-56 victory Thursday night.

With that, New Mexico State clinched second place in the Big West Conference, winning its 19th game of the season. The Aggies 12-5 in the Big West, 19-8 overall.

The Titans (14-12, 9-8) can clinch at least sixth place with a victory over Cal State Long Beach Saturday.

Like several other Big West teams, the Titans are trying to finish sixth or better to earn a first-round bye in the conference tournament.

The Aggies, who nearly let this one get away with poor free-throw shooting (16 of 30), ultimately won it at the line.

William Benjamin, a freshman who is averaging just five points a game, hit both ends of a one-and-one with four seconds left to put the Aggies ahead by four.

Fullerton trailed by five at halftime, then fell behind, 44-31, when Jeff McCool hit a three-pointer with 13 minutes to play.

But Fullerton cut the margin on back-to-back inside baskets by David Moody.

The Titans, only one for 12 from three-point range, hit their one when Mark Hill connected to cut the lead to 52-49 with 4:20 remaining.

Fullerton, fouling New Mexico State inside, watched as the Aggies missed free throws--10 of 19 in the second half. But the closest Fullerton got was 57-56 with 1:27 left.

Sykes blocked a shot, and Cedric Ceballos came up with the ball and broke downcourt, but his on-the-move shot in the lane didn't fall.

Fullerton had one more solid chance, trailing, 58-56, with 33 seconds left. Mark Hill tried a three-pointer with about 12 seconds left. Sykes picked up the loose-ball rebound, but also missed. Van Anderson tried once more for the Titans, but his shot also went in and came out.

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