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Sunderland 0 for 15 in Fullerton Defeat

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Cal State Fullerton, shooting only 38.8% from the field, lost its third game in a row, 78-70, Thursday night as New Mexico State clinched the No. 1 seeding in the Big West Conference tournament in front of 2,279 in Titan Gym.

The Titans, and especially point guard Aaron Sunderland, were off-target from almost every location.

Sunderland, calling it his worst game at any level, was 0 for 15 from the field. He missed layups, short jumpers, long jumpers and, hitting for the cycle, even missed a dunk attempt with 2:31 left and the Titans trailing, 70-61.

“Gol-ly,” Sunderland said, dragging out the ‘L’s as if Fullerton hasn’t had enough of them lately. “Once I knew I couldn’t dunk, it was like, ‘Aww’ . . .

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“In practice, I would have put it down easy.”

Said Coach Brad Holland: “Oh for 15 is about as bad as it gets.”

The Titans (14-11, 9-8) made only one field goal in the game’s first 8:01 and only two in the first 9:18. But their 13 first-half offensive rebounds helped compensate for their lack of marksmanship, and they trailed at halftime by only 36-30.

Then, behind a three-pointer by Don Leary, a dunk by Kim Kemp and four points from reserve Dijon Bernard, Fullerton came back to take a 55-54 lead.

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However, New Mexico State (22-6, 15-3), spurred by three-pointers from Sam Crawford and Corey Rogers, went on an 8-0 run.

Fullerton never recovered. And the Aggies, who were coming off a victory over Nevada Las Vegas on Monday night, are one victory away from winning their first outright Big West title. New Mexico State finished the regular season at UC Irvine on Saturday.

“I thought we played well tonight,” Coach Neil McCarthy said. “Every time they closed, we were able to make a run.

“What did we win by, eight? That’s a big win on the road.”

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