To say it was Cal State Fullerton's biggest victory of the season is not the greatest of distinctions.
After all, there are only seven others to compare.
But the Titans' 80-77 upset of Utah State Saturday in Titan Gym surely seemed their most satisfying.
It wasn't just the team they beat--just two days ago, Utah State was playing Nevada Las Vegas for first place in the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn.--but also how they did it.
They did it with a little input from some folks other than Richard Morton and Henry Turner, as six other players combined to score 41 points, together outscoring the Morton and Turner duo by two. Which, for this Fullerton team, is very unusual.
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.
With that, the Aggies were beaten by the Titans, who hadn't beaten a team above seventh place in the conference all season and had managed to put together consecutive victories only once all season before this, their second straight after a victory over San Jose State Thursday.
Fullerton's next two games--at Fresno State and at Pacific--are against the only other PCAA teams the Titans have beaten.
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 games to Brigham Young and one to Kansas State.
The loss to Fullerton would seem to end their chances of dethroning UNLV for the PCAA title.
Rod Tueller, Utah State coach, said his players were still tired from the loss to UNLV Thursday and the travel delays that postponed their arrival in Los Angeles until the predawn hours 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.
George McQuarn, on the other hand, was more than pleased.
"I thought we played pretty darn well, myself," said 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."
No, not very many. In fact, McQuarn couldn't recall one.
Fullerton's list of additional scoring contributors Saturday was like a who's-not-who of the season.
Vincent Blow, a starting forward who hadn't scored in the past two games and didn't score in the first half, scored 10 points in the second half, many of them on crucial turnaround jumpers 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, the walk-on who was once the Titans' 13th man, still doesn't have his name on his jersey and who is hobbled by a bum knee, scored eight.
Van Anderson, a defensive specialist who has been known to miss a layup or two, had seven points.
John Sykes, the transfer who started two games at center early in the season before being demoted to the bench and labelled "a mistake," by McQuarn, added five.
And Bobby Adair, who started nine games before a two-game disciplinary suspension ended with him in a substitute role, added two, on a 12-foot jump shot that made Fullerton's lead eight points with just under three minutes to play.
Why all this now?
"I'm not quite sure there's an answer for that," McQuarn said.
Blow wasn't much more philosophical.
"It's just the way things worked out," he said. "I guess sometimes it just takes time. We're finding ourselves. We're putting it together."
Fullerton shot 63% in the second half and finished at 57% for the game. It was the first time the Titans had scored as many as 80 points since 1987, in a 106-60 defeat of Brown University Dec. 30.