Long Beach State men’s basketball came alive today in Las Vegas at the 2021 Air Force Reserve Big West Men’s Basketball Championship, presented by The Hawaiian Islands.
The Beach surprised everyone and rolled over Cal State Northridge 85-63 at Mandalay Bay’s Michelob Ultra Arena in the most dominant performance of the season. LBSU freshman Jadon Jones provided a spark in the starting lineup in place of the recently dismissed Michael Carter III and collected his first career double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
“I just wanted it,” Jones said in the ESPN postgame interview. “I knew we had to come out with energy… We’re not really worried about records or the past. It’s 0-0 and it’s a tournament. We’re just here to win.”
LBSU (6-11) struggled to stay on the court all season because of COVID-19 pauses and injuries. The Beach also dropped most of its close games down the stretch and came into the tournament riding a four-game losing streak as the No. 9 seed— the lowest in over a decade for coach Dan Monson’s program.
“It’s been a difficult year and we picked the right day in our season so far to have our best game,” Monson said. “Everybody did their job today. It was a fun game to coach because they were prepared.”
Junior guard Chance Hunter scored 13 points while seven different LBSU players scored six points or more. Forward Joe Hampton and senior Colin Slater both chipped in 10 points each while point guard Isaiah Washington enjoyed an all-around performance with six points, nine rebounds, four assists and a steal in 18 minutes. Jones was the only LBSU player to play over 24 minutes.
Hampton got off to a hot start and opened up the CSUN defense in the paint while scoring six of LBSU’s first 11 points. The Beach broke an early 11-11 tie with an 11-0 run thanks to smart defense. CSUN was held without a field goal for almost nine minutes while going 0-for-15 from the field.
Jones was key to slowing down the Matadors, and said he was most proud of his rebounding.
“I’m not the biggest dude out there but it’s a statement,” Jones said. “I’m not going to let anyone do anything. I’m going to have more heart. Scoring is going to come, but rebounding is effort. I pride myself on being an aggressive effort guy.”
“He’s given us a great lift this year and I’m just really excited to have him for three more years, or four if he wants to,” Monson said. “It’s an honor to coach him.”
CSUN ( got on the board with about five minutes left in the half thanks to a TJ Starks 3-pointer, but back-to-back 3-pointers from Slater helped give LBSU a 46-26 halftime lead. Starks scored a game-high 23 points.
LBSU continued to find open looks against a demoralized CSUN defense in the second half, and redshirt freshman RJ Rhoden’s 3-pointer that crawled in over the front of the rim gave the Beach its biggest lead of the night 71-41 with about nine minutes to play.
The Beach shot 52 percent from the field (32/62) and 41 percent from 3-point range (9/22) while holding CSUN to 29 percent shooting (20/69) and forcing 13 turnovers. LBSU also outrebounded CSUN 48-31 and finished with 15 assists. The 86 points scored were a season high in regulation for the Beach.
“We have a lot more to accomplish,” Jones said. “There was not celebrating in the locker room (after the game) so we’re locked in for the next game.”
The 22-point final margin was tied for the second-largest win in Big West Tournament history for LBSU as well as the largest win for the program since the 2015 season.
LBSU will face No. 1 seed UC Santa Barbara on at 11 a.m. on Thursday in the quarterfinals. The Beach hasn’t played UCSB this year.