After a forgettable first half on Friday at Walter Pyramid, Long Beach State junior Michael Carter III took over and scored 23 second-half points in a 64-60 win over visiting Cal Poly.
“Today was our best defensive effort of the year, and our worst offensive performance of the year,” Monson said. “But thankfully (Carter III) found a rhythm. You just have to find that guy and ride him, and today we did.”
It was the first game at home for the Beach (4-7, 3-4) since Jan. 2 because of another pause to the season due to positive COVID tests.
“It was our first time all together since 2020 with injuries and all of the things going on,” Carter III said. “Figuring out things as a collective group was the struggle.”
LBSU’s defense proved to be the difference in a clunky game that featured poor shooting and a lot of free throws. The Beach held Cal Poly to 36.7 percent shooting while going 28/40 from the charity stripe.
LBSU shot 33.3 percent from the field and 2/17 from 3-point range. Carter III made both of those 3-pointers, and his 10 rebounds gives him his second career double-double. He was 0/4 from the field with three rebounds at halftime.
“He’s just got to settle down and take what the defense gives him,” Monson said. “In the first half he was frustrated and that really affects his game. I’m really proud of him that at halftime he was able to gather himself and come out for the second half and be almost a different player. He just took over the game.”
“Sometimes my head isn’t in it the way it should be,” Carter III said. “I have to focus on getting back to being a great player consistently.”
Cal Poly (3-14, 1-10) was led by Alimamy Koroma’s 14 points and 11 rebounds. The forward helped the Mustangs build an early lead. LBSU only scored 10 points in the first 11:32 of the game.
“I thought a few guys were pressing,” Monson said. “We had a lot of guys who were out of sync.”
The Mustangs led 27-25 at the halftime, but the Beach took its first lead 39-37 on a fancy layup from Carter III and an elbow jumper from Colin Slater on consecutive possessions.
Cal Poly answered with 14-5 run to take a 51-44 lead with about seven minutes left.
Carter III responded right back with the only 3-pointers of the night for LBSU off clever assists from Isaiah Washington, who chipped in 11 points.
While Carter III made his free throws down the stretch to build a lead, the LBSU defense held Cal Poly without a field goal in the final 2:33 of the game.
LBSU will host Cal Poly again on Saturday at 4 p.m.
“We have to understand we’re at halftime of this war and we have to come back tomorrow and play better,” Monson said. “We just need to make sure we get each other better shots.”
LBSU (11-4, 10-3) continued to struggle on offense in a 55-44 loss at Cal Poly on Friday afternoon. The Beach shot 26.4 percent shooting from the field and connected on just 2-of-23 three-point field goals for a season-low 8.7 percentage.
Point guard Justina King led LBSU with 17 points, while Kristyna Jeskeova topped the squad with 11 boards. Jeskeova also added three steals, two assists, and two blocks.
The Beach takes on the Mustangs again at 2 p.m. on Saturday.