SAN JOSE — The Cal State Fullerton basketball team is still without a Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. victory. The 65-60 loss to San Jose State Saturday at the Civic Auditorium put the Titans at 0-7 in the PCAA.
Fullerton came close, again, only to lose, again, in the final minutes.
How long can this go on?
"We've been so close," said George McQuarn, Fullerton coach. "Something always seems to happen in the end. I'm not quite sure why. I'm not quite sure why."
No misprint. McQuarn did repeat himself, his voice trailing off as his mind seemed to wander back over the past winless weeks.
In that time, Fullerton (4-12, 0-7) lost to Cal State Long Beach, 76-69, after being down by two with 2:30 left in the game. There was the four-point loss to New Mexico State (41-37), and the six-point loss to Nevada Las Vegas (63-57), a game in which Fullerton trailed by a point and had the basketball with six seconds to go. Thursday, Fullerton lost, 75-72, at Utah State.
Saturday, Fullerton trailed by one (57-56) with 2:18 left.
Three minutes earlier, San Jose State (9-7, 5-3) had a 57-48 lead and seemed ready, finally, to pull away.
But Fullerton went on an 8-0 spurt capped by guard Eugene Jackson's 18-foot jumper.
So what happened? With 2:02 left, San Jose center Gerald Thomas, attempting a one-handed shot in the key, was fouled hard on the right arm by Fullerton's Van Anderson. Thomas' arm continued through and blasted the ball at the backboard. Somehow, seeming to defy the laws of physics, the ball caromed around and fell into the basket.
Thomas made the free throw and San Jose State was up by four, 60-56.
McQuarn later contended that San Jose forward Dietrich Waters traveled as he passed the ball inside to Thomas.
"I'm absolutely certain of it," he said. "He walked as he made the pass. And that play killed us."
It's surprising it took that long.
San Jose held leads of 7, 8 and 9 points for a healthy portion of the first half. The Spartans were shooting 57%, Fullerton 38%. And yet, when Fullerton's Richard Morton made an 18-foot jump shot as time ran out, the Titans trailed by only three, 28-25.
The game appeared to be over when San Jose blew out of the gate in the second half--a half it which it made 63% of its shots--to take an 11-point lead (50-39) with about nine minutes to play.
San Jose guard Ricky Berry had 10 points during that span and finished with a game-high 28.
"Ricky played a great game," McQuarn said. "He got them points every time they needed them. I can't imagine Ricky playing a better game than he did today."
Berry or not, Fullerton did come back, in large part because of Morton (18 points), Jackson (14 points, 5 assists) and forward Henry Turner (14 points, 8 rebounds).
"You know, I didn't feel good until there were three seconds left in the game," said Bill Berry, San Jose State coach. "They are a hell of a team. If they're 0 and 7, I'll eat your hat."
In a season that has produced a number of questions around this Fullerton team, Berry's comments produce one more: You want something to drink with that hat, Bill?
Titan Notes The current seven-game Fullerton losing streak is the longest since 1980-81, George McQuarn's first season as Titan coach. Fullerton went on to lose 13 in a row that season to end up 4-23. . . . Although Richard Morton (18 points) led the team in scoring for the 10th time this season, he had a relatively poor shooting night. Morton made 7 of 16 shots (43%). In the three games going into Saturday's, Morton had made just 15 of 62 shots (24%). . . . Ricky Berry (28 points) reached the 20-point mark for the 15th consecutive game. Projected as a possible first-round NBA draft pick, Berry made an exceptional play in the second half. Henry Turner knocked the ball out of Berry's hands and dove for the ball. In the same motion, Berry retrieved the ball, jumped over Turner, then turned and made a 15-foot jump shot from the corner.