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Harmon Has Just Enough for Titans

College basketball: Fullerton's key offensive threat not fully recovered from injured ankle but his presence makes the difference in 79-76 victory over winless San Diego State.

November 22, 1998|LON EUBANKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Cal State Fullerton's Ike Harmon wasn't at his best Saturday night in Titan Gym.

"But Ike on one leg is better than a lot of guys on two," Titan Coach Bob Hawking said.

Harmon, who missed the Titans' season opener at Kansas State earlier in the week with a severe ankle sprain, made an unexpected return to the lineup against San Diego State, and provided the lift the Titans needed to get past the Aztecs, 79-76.

"I just wanted to do whatever I could," Harmon said. "If that was just get one rebound or block one shot, then I still wanted to do it. I didn't want to be on the sidelines again."

Harmon scored 14 points in 18 minutes, going seven for seven at the free-throw line. He also blocked three shots.

The Titans (1-1) made 10 of 12 free throws in the final 2 minutes 21 seconds with Harmon getting four of them. Center Matt Caldwell was two for two, and guard Mark Murphy made three of four, including two with six seconds left that gave Fullerton the final three-point lead.

Murphy, a junior transfer from Glendale Community College in Arizona, led the Titans with 16 points, making eight of nine free throws for the game. Caldwell had 13 points and a career-high 12 rebounds, and guard Kenroy Jarrett and Mark Richardson each had 10 in a balanced effort.

It was Fullerton's third consecutive victory over San Diego State--the other two were in overtime--and the 10th consecutive home nonconference victory over three seasons for the Titans.

San Diego State, with eight freshmen on its roster and only two scholarship players back from last year's 13-15 team, shot only 35.9% from the floor to 47.1% for Fullerton. Freshman Myron Epps led the Aztecs (0-3) with 18 points.

Harmon said he wasn't cleared to play until a few hours before the game. "I had about six different treatments on my ankle during the day," Harmon said. "It was real tender and there was a lot of swelling, but I tried to play more with my smartness than my athletic ability because that was totally taken away."

The Titan guards tried to lob the ball inside to Harmon, but his jumping ability was so limited that he couldn't get high enough to take advantage of the situation.

"That's the first time I've run since I got hurt last Saturday," Harmon said.

Hawking gave the Titan trainers credit for getting Harmon ready. "He was far from being fully healthy, but without them, he wouldn't have been able to go at all," Hawking said.

Harmon started and scored twice early, but left the game after four minutes and two fouls with the Titans leading, 15-8.

Harmon returned later in the first half and started the second half. But it was obvious how bad he was struggling with his injured ankle when Epps, a 6-3 guard, missed a shot from close range and twice outrebounded Harmon.

The Titans led by nine points early in the second half, but San Diego State cut it to one point. A three-point shot by Harmon turned back that challenge, but the Aztecs made another run to cut the deficit to 69-68 with 2 1/2 minutes remaining.

Fullerton's solid free throw shooting was the difference down the stretch. The Titans lost Richardson with five fouls with 4:25 left and Caldwell fouled out with 1:39 to play, making Fullerton's free throw shooting even more important.

"I was a 90% free-throw shooter last year, so I was confident when I went up there at the end," Murphy said. "When I missed the one free throw earlier, I didn't follow through. The other times I followed through the way I should."

The Aztecs had two three-point tries in the final six seconds, but Brady Trenkle missed them both.

"Except for the finish, we gave up too many offensive rebounds and second effort baskets," Hawking said. The Titans were outrebounded, 41-37, and they had 22 turnovers to 15 for San Diego State.

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