The UC Irvine-Cal State Fullerton rivalry has produced more than its share of exciting basketball over the years, but Saturday night the Anteaters and Titans added a new dimension to their rivalry: prime-time wrestling.
Titan Henry Turner's body slam of Irvine's Steve Florentine was the main event of the first half and the Titans' inability to get off a three-pointer in the final 19 seconds was the climax of the second half.
Wayne Engelstad, who led the Anteaters with 23 points, made two free throws with three seconds remaining after Fullerton's Van Anderson missed a layup, and Irvine held on for a 70-65 Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. victory in front of 2,547 in the Bren Center.
With 10:42 remaining in the first half, Turner and Florentine, who had been exchanging elbows for several minutes, got tangled in front of the Irvine bench. A second later, in a move that would make Hulk Hogan proud, Turner picked one of Florentine's legs off the ground and drove him to the floor. Referee Bill Simmons was the third person on the pile.
Captains Engelstad and Richard Morton of Fullerton helped to keep the incident from evolving into a bench-clearing brawl.
When Turner finally untangled himself from the fracas, he was greeted by a high five from teammate Bobby Adair. Nobody in a Titan uniform was celebrating a minute later, however, when the officials announced both players would be ejected for flagrant fouls.
Turner is averaging 17 points and 8 rebounds. Florentine is averaging 3 points and 2 rebounds.
"They certainly got the best of that," Titan Coach George McQuarn said. "Maybe we should have traded (reserve John) Sykes for Engelstad in the second half,"
With Turner gone, Fullerton guard Morton--the only other Titan averaging more than seven points a game--was the designated scorer. He responded with 28 points, hitting 10 of 15 field goals and 8 of 10 free throws. He was supposed to get one more shot after McQuarn called time out with 19 seconds remaining and Fullerton (6-14 overall and 2-9 in the PCAA) trailing, 68-65.
Irvine Coach Bill Mulligan had other plans, however.
"I saw him coming off a double screen near the top so I picked him up," Engelstad said. "Coach said if all five of us had to guard him not to let him get that shot."
With about five seconds left, Titan guard Eugene Jackson passed to Anderson, who was alone under the basket. Anderson missed, though, and Engelstad got the rebound and was fouled.
"Everybody in the arena, including all the Irvine players knew we wanted Morton to shoot the three-pointer," McQuarn said. "They were all over him. Jackson did the only thing he could do."
Fullerton's three-pointer that never was wasn't the difference, though. Irvine (11-9, 6-5) made 10 of 15 three pointers. Engelstad was 3 of 4 from beyond the 19-foot 9-inch stripe, and freshman Justin Anderson made 3 of 5.