The ball, Wayne Williams said, ended up in the right person's hands.
They were his own.
Dell Demps of the University of the Pacific knew as much as soon as Cedric Ceballos tapped the ball away from him and into Williams' grasp in the final seconds of Cal State Fullerton's game against the Tigers Saturday.
"I knew he'd made some shots like that before," Demps said. And as Demps watched and dreaded, the sophomore--whose teammates call him Buzzer-Beater--did it again, launching a 32-foot shot that rattled in as time ran out, giving Fullerton a 76-73 Big West Conference victory in front of 2,113.
It wasn't much different from the basket that Williams made to beat Nevada Las Vegas at the overtime buzzer last season, only about seven feet farther out and at the other end in Titan Gym. And it set off a pandemonium the likes of which hadn't been seen in Titan Gym since the victory over UNLV.
"It wasn't one of my better ones," Williams said, "but I'll take it."
It wasn't much different from four other buzzer-beating three-pointers that Williams has made in a career that is only 41 games old.
This season, he hit a halftime buzzer-beater in a victory against Fresno State Thursday. Last week, he missed one against Utah State as the overtime clock ran out.
And Saturday, he made one that kept Fullerton out of overtime and spared the Titans the possibility of becoming the first conference team to lose to Pacific at home since January 1987.
"We had this game penciled in as a win," Williams said. "It would have been a big disappointment to lose it."
Fullerton (8-5 overall, 2-2 in conference) had led this game by 14 points, but almost let it get away. Pacific took a 72-71 lead with 1:18 remaining on two free throws by Demps, who led Pacific with 22 points. Anthony Woods, fouled by Williams, made the first of a one-and-one with 25 seconds left, but missed the second--one of only two missed free throws by Pacific in the game--leaving the Tigers with a two-point lead.
On the other end, Fullerton tied it on a pressure-packed turnaround jumper with 11 seconds left by Agee Ward, whose inside touch gave Fullerton 14 points, including eight in a row during the final minutes.
"We practiced that all week. I had a lot of confidence," Ward said.
With the score tied, Pacific took a timeout, and Fullerton planned to pressure.
"We weren't going to let them bring it up easy," Fullerton Coach John Sneed said.
The Tigers inbounded the ball at the far end of the court with Fullerton pressing. As Demps crossed halfcourt, Ceballos and Williams converged on him, and Ceballos tipped the ball loose with about three seconds left.
"I was careless with the ball and he stripped me," Demps said. "I was too concerned about getting a shot off."
Williams saw the loose ball, snatched it up, turned back toward the basket and after a few dribbles launched the shot from an angle on the right side.
Just your basic high-percentage shot for Williams, who has a bit of trouble with layups on occasion and is shooting only 31% from the field. But this kind of shot is his thing.
"The ball happened to go to Wayne Williams," Sneed said. "Vintage Titan, what can I tell you."
It was a tough way to lose for Pacific (9-6, 2-4), a much-improved team over last season's 7-21 club. The Tigers, behind Demps and Reggie Ricks, whose 20 points included six three-pointers, had a chance at an upset against a Fullerton team that had its best shooting performance in four years, making 61.5% of its shots.
Instead, the Tigers were beaten by a buzzer-beater.
"That's something you don't expect," Coach Bob Thomason said. "It's a shock. It was a lucky shot, but sometimes you win games on lucky shots."
Williams says he doesn't practice the shot much, but admitted he tried it earlier in the day Saturday.
"Just to see if it would go in," Williams said. "It was way short."
With the game on the line, it was right on the mark. It was Williams' third three-pointer in three attempts Saturday, giving him 11 points.
"I don't think it would work if it was set up," he said. "It was just something that needed to be done."
Reserve forward Ron Caldwell has been suspended from the team indefinitely and will not travel to San Jose State, Cal State Long Beach or New Mexico State, Coach John Sneed said. "I just decided it was the best thing for the team right now," Sneed said. Caldwell and Sneed have had a strained relationship for some time, and Sneed suspended Caldwell for one game this season after Caldwell didn't follow instructions in practice. Caldwell is averaging 3.2 points a game. . . . Cedric Ceballos and Mark Hill led Fullerton with 19 points each against Pacific and remain tied for the team scoring lead with 21.5-point averages. . . . Cal State Disneyland Dept.: Mickey has Minnie, and now Fullerton mascot Tuffy Titan has a significant other too. A feminine Tuffy, as yet unnamed, made her debut during Saturday's game.