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Jeff Eisenberg

How to blow a five-point lead in 4.6 seconds ... and still win

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

Two days after Cal State Fullerton's 83-77 overtime win at UC Riverside on Saturday night, Titans coach Bob Burton had calmed down enough to find humor in the series of blunders his team made during a frantic finish to regulation.

"I'm too old for this," Burton joked. "You're going to call some day and my wife's going to say, 'He died last night on the bench.'"

With Cal State Fullerton leading by five points after sinking a pair of late free throws to seemingly ice the game, UC Riverside's Javon Borum trimmed the lead to two on a deep right-wing 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds to go. Then forward Andre Hardy couldn't find a teammate to inbound the ball to and called a timeout the Titans didn't have, a Chris Webber-esque gaffe that enabled Borum to sink two technical foul shots to tie the game at 73 apiece.

"Absolutely everything you could do wrong at the end of regulation, we did it," Burton said. "We let them hit a three. We had the wrong guy taking the ball out for us. We called the timeout. We were really fortunate not to lose the game."

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Hardy's blunder marked the second time this season that a player called a timeout he didn't have in the closing seconds of a game. A Southern Illinois player made the same mistake in November, enabling Northeastern's Chaisson Allen to hit one of two technical foul shots and lift his team to an anticlimactic 63-62 victory.

One of the reasons Burton could laugh about squandering the late lead against UC Riverside was because of how well the Titans responded in overtime. Initially shell-shocked after Borum's free throws, they gathered themselves, limiting UC Riverside to four free throws in overtime and taking the lead for good on a Devon Peltier 3-pointer.

For a Cal State Fullerton team that has experienced more than its share of injuries and adversity during a 6-10 start, the victory was especially sweet. The Titans improved to 2-1 in Big West play and are finally healthy enough to perhaps challenge league favorites UC Santa Barbara and Long Beach State.

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"I was really proud and amazed at how we played the overtime," Burton said. "You're just so devastated because you've got the game completely won and the only way they can win it is if we absolutely screw it up, which we did. Then our kids came out and played so good in the overtime. But I have never been involved in anything like that in 40 years of coaching."

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