Sunday afternoon’s non-conference men’s basketball game between Long Beach State and Seattle U was anything but normal. Due to COVID-19 protocols, there were no fans in the Walter Pyramid for the Beach’s home opener. It was also the first organized sporting event in the city featuring a local team since March 11, a layoff of nearly nine months that is completely unprecedented in Long Beach history.
But despite the strange circumstances and scenery, Long Beach shined brightly in its return to the Pyramid court, beating Seattle U 80-75. It was the Beach’s first win of the season and evens its record at 1-1 on the year.
“I told our guys the (loss Friday to LMU) was embarrassing,” said LBSU coach Dan Monson. “It’s not our guys’ fault. We haven’t been together enough to be a good defensive team yet. But I thought we responded well tonight.”
After being outrebounded and worn down defensively in their opener, the Beach had significantly better energy on Sunday, outrebounding Seattle 43-36 and outscoring them in the paint 36-18. It was also a breakout performance for transfer guard Isaiah Washington, a New York native who looks like he’ll be a star in Long Beach. Washington had a team-high 21 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and no turnovers.
“Isaiah is what we were missing last year,” said Monson. “We had guys who were combo guards but to have somebody that’s played their whole life who’s a true point guard…he’s a little more high risk than I’m used to but somebody like him you gotta let him go.”
Long Beach led almost wire to wire except for a stretch of a few seconds late in the game when Seattle tied it after three straight free throws from Darrion Trammell, who led all scorers with 32 points. Washington responded right away with a 3-pointer of his own to put Long Beach back on top.
Late in the game, Washington got an offensive rebound to extend a possession as Long Beach was able to make enough free throws to secure the win.
Washington was pleased with his debut in Long Beach, even without fans, but said he didn’t like seeing his counterpart for Seattle score 30+.
“I take it personal when a guy gets going, I’m taking all of that energy into practice tomorrow,” said Washington. “He’s a hell of a player.”
Washington was backed up by 20 points from Michael Carter III (9/10 from the free throw line) and 16 points from Joe Hampton. Chance Hunter had 14 points, 13 rebounds, and a highlight dunk on the baseline that brought the energy out of the socially distanced Beach bench.
Monson said he and his coaches talked to their team about energy after the LMU loss.
“I told our guys, Loyola Marymount won the juice game,” he said. “One of the big points we had is for our guys, all you got is each other. I thought we played with much more energy and our bench had much more energy–we needed every ounce today.”
Monson and Washington both downplayed the significance of the strange setting, with Washington saying that his teammates and coaches are who he plays for.
“It’s different in this building because the Pyramid’s been such a special place to play,” said Monson. “There’s no better place when it’s full and the energy is there. But I’ve been in tournaments where there’s even less people than this, and to be honest with you I don’t really notice much when the game starts…there’s definitely an eerie environment, it’s eerie personally. One of my kids asked, ‘When’s the last time you had a home game and your family’s not there?’ I couldn’t remember. Some of our players are in the same boat, where their parents have been at every game back to the fourth grade.”
Long Beach State will hit the road for a five-game stretch beginning at San Francisco Thursday and at Cal Baptist on Saturday. Their next home game will be Jan. 1 against Cal State Bakersfield.