It’s a season unlike any other for NCAA women’s basketball. Chaos, confusion, and COVID-19 have dominated the headlines, with even elite programs like Duke shutting their season down early as the pandemic spikes once again across the country.
At Long Beach State, however? So far, so good. The Long Beach State women opened up Big West Conference play in the Walter Pyramid against UC Riverside on Sunday evening and looked phenomenal, blowing out Riverside 74-44.
It was the biggest win for head coach Jeff Cammon over a Division 1 opponent and the team’s biggest win over a D1 opponent since 2015.
“We utilized our length and athleticism to make them play faster than they wanted to and we took them out of their comfort zone,” said Cammon. “It led to turnovers and us getting out in transition and getting easy buckets.”
It’s hard to sum up how well the game went for Long Beach, who shot 55% from the field and 64% from 3, led by 20 points from Naomi Hunt. They also held Riverside to 32% shooting and forced 22 turnovers, winning every quarter and holding their opponent to just 17 points in the first half.
It was just the third game of the year for Long Beach State, who easily beat an NAIA opponent to start the year then played USC tight in a six-point loss last week.
“We were really excited coming off those two games, we were ready for more,” said Hunt. “We were confident coming in, and we’ll continue that energy.”
The energy and chemistry were obvious from tip to finish, and Cammon acknowledged it.
“This is the best shooting team I’ve had but also the togetherness and chemistry this year is ridiculous,” he said. “They all play for each other.”
Ma’Qhi Berry added 14 points and Justina King added 11 for the Beach, who will have a quick turnaround to host Riverside again Monday at 4 p.m., just 22 hours after finishing Sunday’s game. That back-to-back schedule will continue throughout the year, something the Beach coaches and players had mixed feelings about.
“It’s good because in this COVID world you’re only in contact with one team, so in that regard it’s smart,” said Cammon. “On the other hand, when you’re not as deep it’s tough. We have four or five kids playing over 30 minutes right now.”
Hunt sounded ready to get back on the court Sunday night after the big win.
“From a basketball standpoint it’s great because we get to really focus in on a team,” she said. “On the minus, it’s our wear and tear and mileage in two days. But that other team has to do it too, so it’s just a matter of who’s tougher.”
VIDEO: Long Beach State vs. UC Riverside Women’s Basketball, Game One
PHOTOS: Long Beach State vs. UC Riverside Women’s Basketball