As the game moved from regulation into overtime -- then double overtime, then triple overtime -- a question arose: Who would emerge the hero?
Would it be Vincent Cordell, who scored seven of his career-best 17 points in the second overtime?
How about Mark Hill, who made two amazing off-balanced shots and six free throws in the three OTs?
Sadly, no. The heroes were Cal State Fullerton's Gerard Anderson and Eric Williams. Anderson scored 11 of his career-high 25 points in the third overtime; and Williams rebounded an intentionally missed free throw by Anderson, made the layup, drew a foul and made a free throw with 3.2 seconds to play, giving the Titans a 113-112 victory over the Matadors.
Some of the numbers from the game could be considered staggering: 155 field-goal attempts, 110 free throws, 109 rebounds, 75 fouls, 44 turnovers, 17 tied scores, 15 lead changes, 11 players fouling out and 10 players scoring in double figures.
But the numbers Matadors coach Bobby Braswell counts as most important are 3 and 22, as in three critical times CSUN (9-16, 4-7 Big West) needed a defensive stop with its 22 defense (man-to-man) and didn't get it.
After it appeared Hill would be the hero when he made the first of his two off-balanced bank shots -- this one with 1:15 to play in the first overtime to give his team an 83-81 lead -- and drew the foul, he missed the free throw, and Anderson made two free throws with 12.9 seconds left to force a second overtime.
The Titans (13-11, 7-5) took a 92-87 lead with 1:50 left in the second overtime before Cordell made a 3-pointer, then converted three free throws, the last of which came with 15.1 seconds to play, and Hill made his second off-balanced shot, a left-side layup with opposing players all over him. But Jacques Streeter made a 3-pointer with 6.5 seconds to play to send the game to a third overtime, only the second one in CSUN history (the last was in November 1982).
Then came the third OT. Hill made six straight free throws for a 112-110 lead with 11.3 seconds to go.
"We found another way to lose a game tonight," Braswell said. "We got ourselves in position to win the game. All we needed to do was get that defensive stop. ... That's what this program's built on: getting the stop; and we didn't get the stop."
Actually, overtime might have never happened had the Matadors been able to hold their 44-32 halftime lead. Instead, Fullerton came all the way back, first tying the score at 50-50, then taking a 58-57 lead with 6:57 to play.
Hill's two free throws gave CSUN a 76-73 lead with 11.8 seconds to play in regulation, but Devon Peltier made a 3-pointer with 3.7 seconds to play to force overtime.
This loss was the fourth by one point for the Matadors this season, and it hurt the most.
When asked if the loss was devastating, Hill said, "You could say that. It hurts real bad."
The 10 players to score in double figures, with their totals in parentheses: Kenny Daniels (25 and 10 rebounds), Gerard Anderson (25), Aaron Thompson and Jacques Streeter (21 each), Mark Hill (18), Vincent Cordell (17),Lenny Daniel, (16 and 11 rebounds), Devon Peltier (16), Bryce Webster (12 and 10 rebounds) and Willie Galick(11). ... The 11 players to foul out: Daniels, Thompson, Streeter, Hill, Daniel, Webster, Galick, Orane Chin, Jer'Vaughn Johnson, Raymond Cody and Tony Osunsanmi. ... The four one-point games is the most since four in 1992-93. ... Fullerton has won seven straight at The Matadome. ... Bobby Braswell used his 12th different starting lineup of the season, inserting Raymond Cody for Vinnie McGhee. McGhee, Willie Galick, Rashaun McLemore,Mark Hill and Tony Osunsanmi started the last four games. ... Fullerton's Jer'Vaughn Johnson fouled out of both games against Northridge ... The three overtime game was only second such game in the 1,418 game history of Cal State Northridge basketball history ... The other three overtime contest was a 94-91 victory over Cal State Stanislaus on Nov. 19, 1982 to open the 1982-83 season.