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Titans Silence Gauchos by Scoring 74-69 Upset

February 05, 1989|ROBYN NORWOOD | Times Staff Writer

There was a horde of UC Santa Barbara fans doing a pretty fair job of turning Cal State Fullerton's 4,000-seat Titan Gym into a Thunderdome-South Saturday.

They failed in one major respect. The Gaucho fans might have won the noise battle, but the Titans won the game, breaking open a 16-point lead and staving off a frenetic comeback for a 74-69 upset in front of 3,644 fans, a majority of them out-of-towners.

Fullerton's upset had its first stirrings in Wayne Williams' 35-foot shot at the halftime buzzer. It was a shot that Coach John Sneed called "a shot in the arm"--and it put Fullerton up by 7 points and into a mode to win.

Matter of fact, when Williams hit that shot and met teammate Derek Jones in an embrace at midcourt, you would have thought the Titans already had won.

"Yeah," said Williams, who finished with 14 points, "it was pretty exciting."

"We needed a boost, and Wayne's shot gave it to us," Fullerton Coach John Sneed said. "I think our kids have played well in some big games; it was nice to finally come up with a big win."

The real celebration could only come later, after Fullerton survived a Gaucho comeback, led by the aggressive drives of guards Carlton Davenport and Carrick DeHart, the former Santa Monica High School backcourt tandem.

Fullerton had been up by 16 with 15 minutes to play. But DeHart put together a 3-point play and a driving jumper to help cut it to 9. The teams traded baskets awhile, but with a chance to cut it to 7, DeHart took one giant, high-dribble, sweeping step around Mark Hill and drove in for a layup, cutting it to 58-51 with 9 minutes left.

Santa Barbara cut it to 70-69 with 1 minute left on a 17-foot jumper by Davenport. But Cedric Ceballos, fouled on a drive with 16 seconds left and the shot clock down to 6, made both ends of a 1-and-1 for a 72-69 lead.

On Santa Barbara's final possession, with time running out, Fullerton's Rashone Lewis saved the game with a block of Mike Doyle's 3-point attempt with 3 seconds left.

"I just went up with him on the shot," said Lewis, a sophomore who is playing his first college season. "Coach told us they'd go to him or DeHart."

Asked if he feared a foul whistle on the play, Lewis shook his head.

"Besides, they needed 3 points, not 2."

The possession on the jump ball went to Fullerton, and Mark Hill made 2 free throws when he was fouled with a second left.

"This was a great win for us," said Jones, the team leader despite scoring only 2 points and fouling out with 11 minutes to play. "It was what we needed after the loss to UCI. We let that one get away, and we were down. We came out and played our hearts out. . . . Their crowd was a little more boisterous than ours. We knew that we'd have to do something to get our fans into it. Wayne's shot and Cedric's dunks did that."

It was Fullerton's play in the early going of the second half that got things really going. Ceballos drove for a layup and a 9-point lead on the first possession. After trading baskets, David Moody tipped the ball in off a miss by Ceballos, and as quick as that, Fullerton led 41-30, with just two minutes gone in the second half.

But it was a couple of plays by Ceballos that made the lead emphatic--a 360-reverse dunk off a steal by Jones, and a high-lofting hook.

Fullerton's biggest lead came with 15 minutes left, 50-34, on two free throws by Williams.

It was a game that began oddly, without Santa Barbara Coach Jerry Pimm on the bench. Pimm was so ill that he had contemplated staying in his hotel room. But 20 minutes before the game began, he changed his mind. He walked into the gym with the game under way.

When he arrived, he entered a gym that might have been two hours north of Fullerton, in the Gauchos' Events Center--fondly dubbed the Thunderdome--for all the support the Gauchos were getting. It was a night on which chants of "defense, defense," were no particular indication which team had the ball. Fullerton players were even subject to being razzed at the free throw line.

But the result was one that couldn't have happened in the Thunderdome--at least not so far this season. The Gauchos are undefeated there, but have lost 3 Big West Conference games on the road, falling to 15-3.

"The big point for us was the end of the half, when they got that lead," Pimm said. "And we couldn't guard Ceballos, he's just so much better offensively than us."

Ceballos led all scorers with 26 points. Hill added 24 for Fullerton, and Mike Doyle led the Gauchos with 20.

The loss--coupled with UC Irvine's victory over Nevada Las Vegas--diminishes the buildup for the Gauchos' meeting with the Rebels Monday night, the first game between the teams since Santa Barbara's two upsets last season.

That game once appeared as if it would be for the conference title; that now looks less likely.

Fullerton is 9-10 overall, 4-6 in the conference.

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