After the game, Cal State Fullerton Coach George McQuarn sat casually with his arm around the chair of his college roommate, UCLA Coach Walt Hazzard, and Bobby Adair called it "just a little ballgame."
But it was clearly an opportunity that got away. Fullerton has played UCLA only twice in its basketball history. Last season, the first game between the teams ended in a one-point Fullerton loss. Monday night, the second ended in a 74-65 UCLA victory, although only a 13-0 Fullerton run in the final minutes made it that close. The Titans once trailed by 22.
But until nearly midway through the second half, the Titans were still in it. Fullerton trailed by just two, 32-30, at halftime, despite poor shooting (38%) and two lengthy scoreless stretches.
"I felt that if we played a little better than in the first half, maybe we could win it," said Richard Morton, who has been Fullerton's leading scorer but had a poor shooting night Monday, making just 7 of 17 shots and finishing with 19 points. Henry Turner scored 24 leading the Titans in scoring for the second straight game.
Turner, who made several spectacular scoring moves through the lane, has scored 100 points in the past four games since returning from an ankle injury that kept him out of two games.
There was little doubt that Fullerton had hopes of taking advantage of UCLA's poor start. The Bruins had won just two of eight before meeting Fullerton.
"We came into the ballgame with the idea we could win," McQuarn said. "I felt that way, and I tried to impart that to the kids. I thought we played that way the first half, but once it got into double digits it really affected us."
A 9-2 run keyed by freshman Gerald Madkins helped UCLA open a 52-41 lead with 12 minutes to play.
"I felt that this year we had a better chance (than last season)," said Morton, who also played on the team that lost to UCLA, 72-71, last season. "But we had a couple of plays where we broke down, and from there on it was uphill."
Much of the season has seemed like an uphill battle for the Titans (3-5).
Monday, Fullerton played with its full starting lineup--an occurrence that has been a rarity this season.
Eugene Jackson, the Titans' point guard, returned to the lineup after missing two games with an injured back, and Vincent Blow, who had been ill recently, played 32 minutes.
The Titans also got some offensive production from someone other than Morton and Turner for a change. Adair, a forward, scored a Fullerton career-high 12 points on 4 of 7 shooting.
Still, the result was one Fullerton has now experienced five times this season. The last time Fullerton lost five games this early was 1980-81, McQuarn's first season, in what turned out to be a dismal 4-23 season.
There are still plenty of games ahead for the Titans, of course, but no future games against UCLA are planned. Both last season's game and this one were one-game contracts. And now the Titans have two losses to show for the games.
"A loss is always disappointing," McQuarn said, playing down the opponent. "Our inability to handle the press and the way we played the second half--that bothers me."