For the second time in three days, Long Beach State men’s basketball used its defense to win a Big West Conference game at Walter Pyramid. The Beach shut down UC Santa Barbara on Thursday, and then beat Cal State Northridge 71-55 on Saturday.
“I’m happy for our guys to put a week together and get rewarded for being coachable and doing the things we’re asking them to do,” LBSU coach Dan Monson said. “To defend and win with our defense is very gratifying as a coach. I think we grew a lot this week. I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
The Beach (6-9, 2-1) held CSUN to 35.6 percent shooting and under 30 points in both halves while forcing 17 turnovers.
“We know we can score with anybody but I feel like this week we focused more on our defense and just talking and getting our hands up and communicating with one another when something goes wrong,” LBSU guard Joel Murray said. “We had way more attention to detail and took our matchups personally this week.”
Murray scored a game-high 16 points while fellow guard Jadon Jones chipped in 15 points. Colin Slater dished out a game-high seven assists, and forward Aboubacar Traore was active with a double-double 10 points and 16 rebounds in only 19 minutes on the floor.
“For me it’s inspirational,” Monson said of Traore moving down low due to injuries. “If he didn’t get in foul trouble he would’ve had another 20 rebound game.”
Traore set the tone early with seven rebounds in the first four minutes as LBSU took an early 8-0 lead.
“You’ve got to reward him as much as you can,” Murray said. “He doesn’t really look for all of the extras and he just plays his role. Those are the types of dudes you want to play with every night.”
Lakewood native Atin Wright got CSUN (5-10, 1-2) back in the game with a team-high 14 points, but LBSU took a 30-29 into halftime.
LBSU pulled away early in the second half by getting the ball down low. The Beach only had six points in the paint in the first half, and the first 11 points scored in the second half we’re all in the paint. Traore capped the run with a pair of dunks. LBSU led by as many as 20 points after the break.
“We didn’t play well in certain areas of the game, but as I tell them, to be a great team you have to win games in different manners,” Monson said. “There’s teams in the (Big West) who are better than us but I think we showed ourselves this week that we can get there.”
LBSU will visit UC San Diego on Thursday and host UC Irvine on Saturday.