Junior guard Eric Williams – who only played the last three minutes of the game – made the game-winning free throw on a three-point play with just 3.2 seconds left.
“It’s funny because the way the shot went off the rim it just went right into my hands, everyone went to the right and the ball just came right to me,” Williams said.
With four seconds left – the Titans were down by three with no timeouts left – senior guard Gerard Anderson intentionally missed his second free throw and Williams slid through the defense for the offensive rebound and was fouled when he went up for a layup.
“I saw the lane and I just took it and luckily I got contact and made the basket,” Williams said.
CSUF was down multiple times in crucial situations, but they rose to the occasion – whether it was a clutch shot to tie the game or a defensive play to save the game – they made big plays to stay alive.
“I’ve never seen a team make so many great plays to stay alive. We were dead on three separate occasions,” said Titan Head Coach Bob Burton. “You have to have a lot of luck too, especially the last one, because the ball rimmed perfectly out.”
Anderson led the Titans with a career-high 25 points, including 18 points in the crucial overtime periods.
Senior guard Aaron Thompson and sophomore guard Jacques Streeter both contributed 21 points.
In the first half, CSUF was down by as much as 12 points and were outscored 24-2 in the paint.
Going into intermission, the Titans were down 44-32.
The 44 points was tied for the most points scored in a half by a CSUF opponent all season.
However, when they came out for the second half, they played with a sense of urgency and held the Matadors to only 32 points on 35.5 percent shooting.
The Titans finally tied the game at 50-50 with 10:16 to go in the second half.
With time winding down in regulation, junior guard Devon Peltier knocked down a three-pointer with 3.9 seconds left to send the game into overtime.
In the first overtime, Anderson made two shots from the charity stripe with 12.9 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing Matador possession, Streeter stripped CSUN senior guard Mark Hill right before the sound of the buzzer.
In the second overtime, Anderson blocked a Matador three-point attempt and broke away for an uncontested dunk to give the Titans their largest lead of the game at 92-87.
On the next couple possessions, CSUN forward Vincent Cordell hit a three-pointer; the Titans turned the ball over and fouled Cordell in the act of shooting from beyond the arc.
He made all three free throws to give the Matadors a one point edge with one minute remaining.
After a missed Matador free throw and trailing by three, Peltier passed to a wide open Streeter, who made the game-tying three-pointer to send it into triple overtime.
In the last overtime period – with four Titan starters fouled out – Anderson carried the Titans by scoring 11 points in the third overtime.
“When the game is on the line, everyone steps up,” Anderson said. “I’m a senior so my team looks for me to bring us home when the game is in the balance and I just try to play hard and get the victory.”
The back-and-forth game included a total of 15 lead changes and 17 ties.
“We never quit. That will be one of my most memorable wins,” Burton said.
CSUF was 44-of-61 from the charity stripe, the most free throws made and attempted in school history.
The 113 points scored was tied for third most all-time by a Titan team.
The victory is their seventh straight at the Matadome and puts the Titans alone in third place in the Big West standings.
In their first meeting at the Thunderdome, the Titans lost to UC Santa Barbara 85-80 in overtime on Jan. 23.
They look to knock off first place Gauchos tonight at 7 p.m. in Titan Gym.
“The preparation was pretty good this week,” Williams said. “I think everyone’s mind, everyone’s focus is past the Northridge game, (UCSB) is a big game for us.”