It took about seven-and-a-half minutes for Long Beach State’s women’s basketball team to shake off the rust from a three-week hiatus, but once the Beach found its groove, the results were the same: wins. LBSU picked up a pair of victories last weekend over new Big West rival UC San Diego, improving to 9-1 overall and 8-0 in conference play. LBSU was without starting point guard Ma’Qhi Berry for the weekend while she was dealing with a minor injury, and didn’t have standout forward Naomi Hunt for Saturday’s contest, making the wins even more impressive for the short-handed Beach.
“Whenever you’re going on the road, you’re bound to face some type of adversity,” said LBSU head coach Jeff Cammon. “You could tell that the rust was on a little bit, but I loved our fight and our ability to find a way to win and make winning plays when it was time to. I liked the grit and I liked the toughness on the road.”
In the first game at UCSD last Friday night, Long Beach State fell into an early 10-0 hole. The Beach didn’t record its first points until there was just 2:25 left in the opening quarter, and trailed 13-8 after the first 10 minutes. However, the team showed off its defensive prowess by forcing 22 turnovers in a 54-50 win.
The trio of Patricia Chung, Jasmine Hardy and Justina King each scored 15 points to lead the way in scoring, with the freshman Chung adding a team-high eight rebounds in Friday’s win.
After shaking off the rust in game one, the shooting touch improved for Long Beach in the second game of the weekend, resulting in a more comfortable 74-53 victory. The Beach closed out the Tritons with a 17-7 margin in the fourth quarter, led by junior forward Myrrah Joseph, who scored all 10 of her points in that final frame. She is currently the Big West leader in field goal percentage, connecting on 55.8 percent of her field goal tries. Chung is tied for third in the conference at 52.9 percent from the floor.
Joseph was one of five Beach players to reach double-figures in scoring on Saturday, led by a season-high 17 points from Jasmine Hardy. The junior was an efficient 6-for-8 from the floor in Saturday’s win, finishing one point shy of her career high at the Beach. Hardy started both games of the UCSD series and averaged 16 points per game.
“I’ve seen a lot of improvement from last year,” said Cammon of Hardy’s development. “From the defensive end to the offensive end, her ability to read the defense and make better basketball plays, the game is slowing down for her. She’s finding her identity offensively and on defense, she’s really locked into our concept and schemes.”
Krisytna Jeskeova added a big double-double inside for Long Beach, scoring 12 points while racking up 16 rebounds in 33 big minutes off the bench. The 16 boards were a new career high for the 6-foot-2 sophomore, who has reached double-figures in rebounding five times this season to lead the team with 7.5 per game.
Junior forward Imani Lacy, a 6-foot-1 transfer from Nevada, saw her first action of the season during the trip to San Diego. While her minutes may be limited as she works her way into game shape, the Beach expects to get additional reinforcements in the backcourt as well. Cammon said that Oklahoma transfer Kamryn Lemon is on track to join the rotation in the next couple weeks, and could be an impact playmaker from the point guard position.
The Beach has now won eight straight games, which is the program’s longest winning streak since the 2014-15 season. Long Beach State won 15 games in a row that season, including an upset of No. 19 Cal (where Cammon was an assistant coach at the time.)
The Beach remains perched atop the Big West standings in what appears to be a three-team race heading into the halfway point of the conference schedule. UC Irvine (5-0) and UC Davis (4-0) are also unblemished in Big West games, and both teams have visits to Walter Pyramid left on their schedules.
LBSU will be back at home this weekend, facing UC Santa Barbara (2-9, 2-5 Big West) for a pair of games on Friday and Saturday.
The Beach were forced to enter another two-week pause in its season following a positive COVID-19 test. An LBSU player tested positive prior to last Friday’s scheduled home game against UC San Diego. The Beach has already experienced a handful of scheduling interruptions, and this will be the team’s second two-week shutdown of the season.
LBSU is 3-5 overall with a 2-2 mark in Big West play. With series against UC San Diego and UC Santa Barbara now canceled, the Beach are next scheduled to play on February 12-13 at UC Davis.