Just when it would seem that it hardly matters anymore, Cal State Fullerton is playing its best basketball of the season.
The Titans, who had managed to put together consecutive victories only once all season before Saturday, upset Utah State, 80-77, in front of 1,720 in Titan Gym.
Just two days ago, Utah State was playing Nevada Las Vegas for first place in the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn.
Saturday, the Aggies were beaten by the Titans, who hadn't defeated a team above seventh place all season.
Utah State (16-8, 11-4) had lost to UNLV twice and once to UC Irvine in PCAA play. Among the Aggies' other losses: two to Brigham Young and one to Kansas State.
Fullerton (8-15, 4-10) led by as many as nine points and had a six-point lead with 16 seconds remaining, but the victory wasn't assured until a three-point shot by Kevin Nixon that would have tied the score rolled off the rim at the buzzer.
"I thought we played pretty darn well, myself," said George McQuarn, Fullerton coach. "We made some mistakes down the stretch, some turnovers. But we haven't had very many games where we've been up by five, six or seven points at so-called crunch time."
In fact, McQuarn couldn't recall one.
Fullerton got its usual scoring output from Richard Morton (22 points) and Henry Turner (17), but the surprise--and the difference--was the scoring support from other players.
Vincent Blow, a starting forward who hadn't scored in the past two games and didn't take a shot in the first half, scored 10 points in the second half as the Titans opened a lead.
Eugene Jackson, the point guard who has earned and lost the starting position three times in his career, added nine points.
Benson Williams, a walk-on who was once the Titans' 13th man off the bench and who is hobbled by a bum knee, scored eight. Van Anderson, a starter who rarely scores more than five points, had seven.
And John Sykes, the transfer who started two games at center early in the season before being demoted to the bench and labeled "a mistake" by McQuarn, added five points.
"It was just the way things worked out," Blow said. "I guess sometimes it just takes time. We're finding ourselves. We're putting it together."
Fullerton put it together in the second half by shooting 63%, and finishing at 57% for the game.
Rod Tueller, Utah State coach, said his team was still tired from its loss to UNLV Thursday and the travel delays that postponed their arrival in Los Angeles until the predawn hours of Friday morning.
"I would have needed a whip to get anybody to play out there tonight," Tueller said.
Dan Conway led the Aggies with 23 points, and Nixon added 20.