For the first time all season, Long Beach State’s men’s and women’s basketball programs were both in action at the same time, going a combined 3-1 over the weekend. The men’s team played three non-conference games in early December, but hadn’t competed in over three weeks following a positive COVID test from a non-student athlete within the program. On the other hand, the women’s program has hit a nice groove, winning four straight games to open conference play.
The deck was stacked against Dan Monson’s team last weekend, as they were not only facing the challenges of back-to-back games after a three-week layoff, but they were also without two key starters–Chance Hunter and Romelle Mansell–due to injury. With just a few practices under their belt following their quarantine, the Beach looked energized and hungry against Cal State Bakersfield last Friday night, gutting out a 90-89 overtime win at Walter Pyramid.
“I’m proud of my guys and I’m happy for them,” said Monson. “I know everybody is going through COVID and adversity but this team has dealt with a lot–more than their fair share. But they didn’t use that as an excuse.”
The Roadrunners are one of the two new member schools in the Big West, joining the conference this season along with UC San Diego. They came in as the road favorites and were dominant on the glass, out-rebounding the shorthanded Beach 50-25 in the contest. Long Beach State was able to hang in the game thanks to a solid edge in three-point shooting, making 12 of 25 three-point attempts (48.0 percent), while going an impressive 8-for-12 (75.0 percent) from beyond the arc after halftime.
It appeared LBSU’s effort would come up short after an offensive rebound and dunk by Cal State Bakersfield gave the visitors a 75-73 lead with just 1.6 seconds left in the game. But the Beach got some late magic from an unlikely source. Needing to go the length of the floor in less than two seconds, the Beach snuck redshirt freshman Shaden Knight underneath their own basket to set a screen on the Bakersfield defender guarding the in-bounds pass. As LBSU’s passer sprinted the baseline, the defender never saw Knight and plowed him over for a foul.
Knight, who was just 1-for-5 on free throw attempts at that point in his young career, calmly drained both free throws to send the game to overtime. From there, LBSU’s star backcourt of Michael Carter III and Isaiah Washington took the game over, scoring all 15 of the Beach’s points in overtime. Carter had a game-high 25 points in the win while Washington chipped in 18. Freshman Jadon Jones out of St. Anthony got his first career start for Long Beach State and didn’t disappoint with a career-best 16 points in the game.
In the rematch on Saturday evening, the Beach ran out of gas in a 89-76 loss, as a balanced Cal State Bakersfield had eight players score eight or more points. Washington was the leading scorer for LBSU with 18, while center Trever Irish chipped in a career-high 14 points.
“We were physically and emotionally drained,” Long Beach State coach Dan Monson said of playing without a healthy roster. “They’re deeper than us and healthier than we are right now.”
The Beach will look to take advantage of a full week of practice and make the quick road trip to Cal State Fullerton for a pair of rivalry games this weekend. Long Beach and Fullerton will square off Friday and Saturday evening with tip-off scheduled for 5 p.m.
The strong start to the season continues for Jeff Cammon’s squad, who have now won four straight to open conference play after a road sweep of Cal State Bakersfield. The Beach have three straight road wins and sit atop the conference standings with a 4-0 record in Big West play and a 5-1 mark overall.
Jasmine Hardy was a catalyst for the Beach in the first victory over the Roadrunners, pouring in 17 points off the bench in just her second game of the season, returning to the rotation after missing three consecutive games. Long Beach led for most of the night, and held on for a narrow 61-57 victory.
The next night, it was Justina King carrying the offensive load, dropping 16 points with six assists and five rebounds. LBSU had an advantage on the boards, where 14 offensive rebounds led to a key 21-9 edge in second-chance points. Newcomers Myrrah Joseph and Patricia Chung each scored a dozen for Long Beach State in the 68-59 victory last Saturday.
Long Beach State’s success this season has been driven by defense. The Beach are allowing 59.3 points per game this season, the best mark in the Big West.
They’ll return home this weekend and put that defense to the test, hosting Friday and Saturday games against Cal State Fullerton at 4 p.m. The Beach will be able to leave a little extra on the floor this weekend, considering they’ll get two weekends off after the Fullerton series before returning to the court January 29 at UC San Diego.