Basketball COVID-19 Long Beach State

PREVIEW: Long Beach State Men’s Basketball On The Road Again

After a mixed bag of results in the first week of this abbreviated regular season, Long Beach State men’s basketball has a tough task at the University of San Fransisco tonight. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

This will be the home opener for USF (4-2) even though the game was originally supposed to be in Santa Clara, but the university got clearance to host the game on campus today.

The Dons already have impressive wins including an upset of No. 4 Virginia at a tournament and a 28-point demolition of Cal Poly last week. USF has three players averaging double figures in Jamaree Bouyea (17.5), Khalil Shabazz (16.3), and Dzmitry Ryuny (12.8).

LBSU (1-1) is coming off its home opening win over Seattle after a rough opening night at LMU.

Below is an interview with LBSU transfer Isaiah Washington who had a team-high 21 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and no turnovers against Seattle.

PODCAST: Interview With Long Beach State Men’s Basketball Guard Isaiah Washington

The key tonight will likely be 3-point shooting from USF. This season the Dons have made 67 of their 187 attempts from behind the arc, and LBSU has struggled to defend the perimeter in its two games.

In other news, the Beach had its game at Cal Baptist canceled, but was also able to reschedule its game at UCLA for Tuesday (Dec. 12) at 6 p.m.

Last week, LBSU players were already on it ready to drive to UCLA where the season opener was originally scheduled, but Monson had to tell them the game was postponed by the Bruins because of concerns over COVID-19 protocols. Neither school has confirmed exactly why the game was moved.

LBSU was, and remained, cleared to practice for a couple days before the trip to LMU last Friday, where the Beach struggled on both ends of the floor. LBSU shot 32% (19-for-59) and had multiple five-minute stretches without a field goal. LMU (2-2) extended its early lead from behind the arc and shot 40% from 3-point range.

“I told our guys the (loss to LMU) was embarrassing,” Monson said. “It’s not our guys’ fault. We haven’t been together enough to be a good defensive team yet.”

LMU’s Joe Quintana scored a game-high 20 points while going 6-for-11 from behind the arc, and he sparked a 12-0 run in the first half. LBSU only scored seven points in the first 10 minutes, and went more than seven minutes of the second half without a field goal.

LBSU had six players make their debut while junior Michael Carter III led the way with 19 points. Transfer Isaiah Washington added 17 points in his first game for the Beach. Sophomore Romelle Mansel finished with a career-high nine rebounds.

Mansel and junior Chance Hunter were key to the more physical and direct approach taken by LBSU in the home opening win over Seattle on Sunday. The Beach outrebounded Seattle 43-36 and outscored them in the paint 36-18. Hunter had a double-double with 14 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block. He also had a highlight dunk that brought a lot of energy to the floor when LBSU needed a lift.

Because of COVID-19 protocols, half of the regular Pyramid stands were pulled away while the benches used that open space to spread out over six-foot intervals. It was 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.

“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,” LBSU coach Dan Monson said. “Some of our players are in the same boat, where their parents have been at every game back to the fourth grade.”

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Washington had his breakout game with a team-high 21 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and no turnovers. The New York native was aggressive and accepted the challenge from Seattle guard Darrion Trammell, who scored a game-high 32 points.

“I take it personal when a guy gets going, I’m taking all of that energy into practice tomorrow,” Washington said. “He’s a hell of a player.”

Monson said Washington is what his team was missing last year.

“We had guys who were combo guards but to have somebody who’s played their whole life who’s a true point guard,” he added. “He’s a little more high risk than I’m used to but somebody like him you gotta let him go.”

With Washington leading the way, LBSU never trailed and the game was only tied for a few seconds late when Thrammell hit three straight free throws. Washington responded right away with a 3-pointer of his own to put the Beach back on top.

“I thought we played with much more energy and our bench had much more energy,” Monson said. “We needed every ounce today.”

This is the latest beginning to a basketball season for LBSU since 1992-93, and obviously the first time the men’s team has played in an empty Pyramid, but both Monson and Washington both downplayed the significance of the strange setting. Washington said 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,” Monson said. “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.”

Carter III, a Seattle native, was consistent on offense Sunday with 16 points while going 5/7 from the field and 9/10 from the free throw line. The junior missed games last year after being suspended for “attitude detrimental to the team” but has looked sharp in two games.

Junior transfer Joe Hampton has been a pleasant surprise for LBSU. The 6’8” 250-pound forward is the fourth leading scorer on the team after chipping in 16 points on Sunday. Hampton signed with Penn State out of high school in Washington, D.C. but never played for the Nittany Lions. After stops at two different junior colleges, he called Monson and asked for a walk-on chance to play.

Monson rewarded his all-around effort by putting Hampton on scholarship this week. The team posted a Twitter video of the post-game announcement in the locker room, and Monson said, “It’s moments like these that are why I love to coach.”

VIDEO: Long Beach State vs. Seattle, Men’s Basketball

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.