For much of this season, if Cal State Fullerton played a game down to the wire, the Titans could kiss it goodby.
In 17 games this season, Fullerton hadn't won a single close one. The narrowest victory the Titans had was by 12 points. Narrow losses, though, had been another story.
You wouldn't have thought overtime would be their thing, but against Fresno State Saturday night, the Titans forced their first overtime of the season and pulled everything together, coming away with a 64-57 Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. overtime victory in front of 2,130 in Titan Gym.
Fullerton needed a leaning shot in the lane from Henry Turner with three seconds remaining to send the game into overtime, but after that, it seemed easy.
On the first possession of overtime, Fullerton made one pass to Richard Morton, who hit a three-pointer. The Bulldogs were never close again.
"We didn't start the overtime very well," said Ron Adams, Fresno State coach.
Fresno State turned the ball over on its first possession, and then the Titans' Vincent Blow hit two free throws, giving Fullerton a five-point lead.
Fresno State didn't score a basket until 1:25 remained in the five-minute overtime period. Fullerton had added a layup by Van Anderson, and made enough free throws down the stretch to hold on.
Fresno State (5-13, 2-7) had extreme difficulty scoring late in the game, and scored only three points in overtime before Kevin Stevenson's three-pointer at the buzzer.
The Titans (6-12, 2-7), have won two straight for the first time this season. Fullerton broke a seven-game losing streak with a victory over the University of the Pacific Thursday, the Titans' first PCAA victory of the season.
It was the first overtime game of the year for either team.
Fullerton traditionally is not a particularly good overtime team. The Titans had been 5-17 in overtime games in George McQuarn's eight seasons at the school, but Saturday the Titans played with more poise in the extra period than during regulation.
What had been a lackluster contest--a 22-22 tie at halftime--turned exciting with about five minutes remaining in regulation.
Fresno State, which had trailed by as many as six, came back to take a six-point lead. But then Morton scored five straight points--including a three-pointer--cutting it to 50-49.
Turner missed a 12-footer with 42 seconds remaining, and the Titans fouled Andre Sims, a freshman who was shooting just 56% from the line. Sims made the first shot, but missed the bonus, giving Fullerton a chance to score.
Rather than attempt the three-pointer, Fullerton went for a two-point shot to send the game into overtime. "We were playing to tie at the end of regulation," said McQuarn. "On the road, we would have played for the win."
Turner made the shot from the lane with three defenders around him.
"Coach talked about driving to the bucket to at least draw the foul," Turner said.
Turned out, he didn't get the foul, but he got the bucket.
"It was a tough shot," Turner acknowledged. "It feels great to win two in a row."
That Morton would lead Fullerton's late-game charge seemed unlikely earlier in the game.
In the first half, Morton was held to just three shot attempts, in part because of Fresno State's matchup zone defense.
But after scoring just two points in the first half, Morton finished with 15, although he fouled out with 3:34 still to play in overtime.
"Richard hit some good buckets for us," McQuarn said. "Maybe the last couple of minutes will give him his confidence back."
Morton had struggled with his shooting in the five games before, making only 29 of 96 shots. He made just 5 of 16 Saturday, but made them in the right spots.
Turner led all scorers with 25 points on 11 of 17 shooting, and Blow added 10 for the Titans.
Eugene Jackson, the Titan point guard, made 3 of 5 free throws down the stretch. Jackson also had a career-high 13 assists.
"I tried to take control of the game when Richard fouled out," Jackson said. "I wanted to settle everyone down so they wouldn't get too excited about having the lead in OT. We could have let it get away."
Mike Mitchell led Fresno State with 17.