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Fullerton Never Trails Till Overtime, and Then Loses

January 03, 1986|JOHN WEYLER | Times Staff Writer

Thursday afternoon, Cal State Fullerton's basketball team learned that senior point guard Kevin Henderson has a stress fracture in his foot as well as a sprained ankle and will be out for at least two more weeks. A few hours later, the Titans found out they could play well enough to win without him . . . for 40 minutes, anyway.

When it came down to overtime, however, Fullerton came up short, and New Mexico State pulled out a 68-61 victory before 2,465 fans at Titan Gym in a Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. opener.

Fullerton (7-6 overall) started by playing inspired defense, built a 13-point lead midway through the first half and never trailed in regulation. But all that inspiration seemed to vanish when the Aggies' Kenny Travis threw in a 20-foot fallaway ( falldown would be more accurate) three-pointer with two seconds left in regulation to tie the score at 59-59.

New Mexico State (6-3) made the most of the momentum. The Aggies got their first lead on a Travis free throw after he was fouled while trying to grab the tip on the jump ball. They increased it to two points on a Pierre Smith free throw with 2:38 left.

Then Gilbert Wilburn, who hit just 1 of 6 first-half field-goal attempts, followed his own missed shot to make it 63-59 with 1:52 left, and his pair of free throws with 22 seconds left boosted the Aggie margin to eight.

Travis led all scorers with 21 points, including two three-pointers. Wilburn, who had 10 rebounds, and Smith, who also had two three-point goals, added 18 points each. And that just about summed up the Aggie offense.

"Fullerton's defense really bothered us tonight," said New Mexico State Coach Neil McCarthy, who was also more than bothered by the officiating. "This is the first opponent to play a man-to-man defense against us this season, and it really caused problems. But we settled down and kept our poise."

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