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Hit and Miss by Morbley Gives CSUN 74-73 Victory : College basketball: He breaks tie on a free throw with four seconds left, says he intentionally misfired on second shot so clock would run out on Northeastern Illinois.

December 17, 1995|JEFF FLETCHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — Damion Morbley missed a free throw with four seconds left to give Cal State Northridge a 74-73 victory over Northeastern Illinois Saturday night.

Honest.

Morbley sank the first of two free throws to give the Matadors a one-point edge. According to Morbley, he tried to miss the second so the Golden Eagles wouldn't be able to take the ball out of bounds and set up something for a final shot.

The shot hit the front of the rim and bounced around among players from both teams before being scooped up by Northridge point guard Trenton Cross, who cradled the ball to seal the victory and send 325 fans at Matador Gym home happy.

Morbley swears, despite cynicism from his teammates and reporters, that he missed the shot on purpose.

"Believe me," said Morbley, who finished with 21 points. "I did. I would have liked to have the extra point, but I did what was best for the team."

But Northridge forward Eric Gray, repeating what he said to Morbley, said: "No one has that much touch. You can't tell me you missed that on purpose. . . . But I'm glad you did."

Northridge Coach Pete Cassidy thought he was joking when he said: "Damion, in his wisdom, missed that free throw because he knew [Northridge's] Tom Samson would get a hand on it."

Whatever went through Morbley's mind at the time, the shot capped a wild second half.

The Matadors trailed the entire first half in the nonconference game before Gray's 11 points in the first four minutes of the second half gave Northridge its first lead, 42-40.

The teams traded small leads the rest of the game until Northridge went ahead, 68-61, on Gerald Rhoden's free throw with 2:26 to play. Rhoden finished with 22 points.

The Golden Eagles' aggressive full-court press forced five turnovers in the final two minutes and they tied the game, 73-73, with 16 seconds to play.

After Northridge called timeout, Cross beat the press and got the ball to Morbley for a drive to the basket. He was fouled by Andrell Hoard and went to the line for his two free throws.

Morbley's clutch brick ended a three-game losing streak for Northridge (2-5).

The secret to victory for Northridge seems to be: play one-point games and play horribly in the first half. The Matadors followed the same formula in a victory over Cal State Fullerton.

The game only vaguely resembled basketball during an ugly first half.

Northridge made just 33% of its shots and Northeastern Illinois (3-4) hit only 37%. And the defenses were sloppy, too, as the teams piled up 28 fouls at intermission.

Neither team could take advantage of the fouls because they both shot only 47% from the free-throw line in the first half.

"We were like a bunch of zombies out there," Gray said.

The Matadors made only one basket in the first nine minutes while the Golden Eagles took a 19-5 lead.

"The first half we came out dead," Morbley said. "We were out of sync. It was ugly. Everyone in the stands was like, 'Let's go home.' "

But Northridge slowly settled into the game toward the end of the half. The Matadors began successfully feeding the ball inside and pulled to within 26-23 on Morbley's free throw with 3:59 to go.

Northeastern Illinois briefly slowed the Matadors' momentum and surged to a 35-28 lead at halftime.

Hoard, Northeastern Illinois' best weapon, managed to score 28 points on 10-for-28 shooting. Hoard, the national junior college scoring champion in 1993-94, had been averaging 25 points--and 25 shots.

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