LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Cal State Fullerton lost its conference opener Thursday night and all Coach George McQuarn could say afterward was oh, shoot.
That's oh, shoot as in "Oh, pleeeeeeeease will somebody shoot."
You remember the Titans, the team that bent a few rims shooting free throws last season? Well, free throws aren't the problem this year. It's like, why even bother fouling the Titans? Just get out of their way, sit back in a zone and let them fire away.
That was New Mexico State's strategy and it worked well enough to give the Aggies a 70-63 Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. win over Fullerton in front of a crowd of 6,913 at the Pan American Center.
The win ended a six-game losing streak for New Mexico State. Both teams are 4-6.
"We're not shooting well," McQuarn understated, "and everything else doesn't matter. You can look at that and rip us all you want."
Actually, neither team won any bull's-eye awards for this one. The Titans made only 27 of 70 shots from the field (39%), but actually outshot the Aggies, who were 23 of 63 from the field (37%).
No, you wouldn't want to invite any of these guys over for horseshoes because the game and the shoes might end up at your neighbor's house.
In the end, Fullerton just outmissed the Aggies.
It's a shame the Titans can't shoot, because otherwise they're not that bad. They hustle and play tough defense. Any team would love to have Tony Neal (15 points, 14 rebounds Thursday.) But making a field goal for the Titans seems as difficult as knocking down leaded milk bottles at a fly-by-night county fair.
Still, Fullerton had a chance to win this game.
With 3:15 left, Richard Morton gave the Titans a 58-56 lead with a basket.
But the Aggies, who shot well with the game on the line, outscored Fullerton, 14-3, after Morton's basket to make the game appear lopsided.
Lopsided. That's just how the ball felt for Fullerton in the final minutes. A three-point shot by Gilbert Wilburn gave the Aggies the lead at 60-58 with 2:34 left.
But then . . .
Kerry Boagni missed from outside for Fullerton and Neal missed a follow shot.
Orlando Febres' hit from outside to give New Mexico State a five-point lead with 1:43 left.
Boagni missed a three-point attempt.
Freshman Jeff Williams hit two free throws to put the Aggies up by six with a minute left.
Boagni missed another three-point attempt.
Wilburn made two more free throws to put the Aggies up, 66-58, with 42 seconds left.
The Titans' Gary Davis missed a three-point shot.
You get the idea.
"I don't know what we can do with our shooting," McQuarn said. "We've been shooting more in practice."
The Titans should officially issue this warning to all opponents: For your own safety, please wear a hardhat under the basket.
It isn't that McQuarn isn't trying. He keeps shuffling his lineup. Thursday, he benched Davis and and moved Kevin Henderson to point guard because he said opponents don't bother to cover Eugene Jackson (0 for 5 Thursday).
McQuarn was hoping that Boagni, the transfer from Wichita State, would give the Titans some outside shooting. But in the four games he's played since becoming eligible in December, Boagni has made only 17 of 46 shots. He was 5 of 14 against the Aggies.
Davis was 2 for 9 and Henderson was 5 for 16. The Titans entered the game shooting 45% from the field.
The win for the Aggies just may have saved Coach Weldon Drew's job. His team had lost six straight and you just don't that here, where the eyes of Las Cruces are always upon you.
"A lot of people only care about whether you win or lose," Drew said. "But we have a lot of people in our corner."
People in the stands, now that's another story.
The usually packed Pan Am Center (capacity 13,222) was a little more than half full for the Fullerton game.
"When you go on a losing streak, you lose your die-hard fans," Drew said. "But we'll get them back."
Wilburn led the Aggies with 23 points.