Long Beach State fell short in their second half comeback attempt against Big West rival UC Irvine as they lost 77-72 late Saturday night.
In a great effort by the Beach, Joel Murray paced them with 20 points while Colin Slater added 16 points and 7 assists in the loss. The Beach were down big early but fought back to nearly overcome the Anteaters late in the game.
“I was proud of our guys,” said LBSU coach Dan Monson. “I think there is a reason we’re in first place and challenging to win this league. Our guys competed and didn’t give up. It was disappointing but I was proud of our fight.”
The struggle started early for the black and gold as UC Irvine started out on a 7-0 run. After finally getting a basket, Long Beach was able to get within three points of UC Irvine but that was the closest they would be during the first half.
UC Irvine knocked down six of their game total seven threes in the first half. They felt little to no resistance coming from the Long Beach defense as they shot 51% from the field going into half time.
“It was a disappointing first half. We were tentative and they controlled their offense. We were not disruptive at all and they were really comfortable. We just got dominated,” said Monson.
The second half was a different game, however. Long Beach faced a 24-point deficit with 15 minutes to go in the game. As they slowly started to chip away at that lead, they got it down to 16 points with a little over 5 minutes to left to play.
Just under 5 minutes, Joel Murray came up with a steal that led to a Jadon Jones midrange jumper. This action sparked a 13-0 run by Long Beach and allowed them to cut the Irvine lead to just three points with under two minutes on the clock.
After giving up a bucket on the other end to go back down by three, the Beach came up with a stop leading to a fast break. Joel Murray pushed the break but could not finish the contested layup. However, Aboubacar Traore soared in for the put-back dunk and now they trailed by just one.
Colin Welp scored a quick jumper for the Anteaters to regain the three point lead with thirty seconds left. As Joes Murray was bringing handing the ball off to Jadon Jones on the next possession, Murray was called for an debatable travel.
The ball was awarded to Irvine and Long Beach had no choice but to foul. The Anteaters proceeded to make their free throws and the time would expire on Long Beach as their comeback was not complete.
Long Beach State is tied for first-place with Fullerton at 10-3, and has games at home against UC Davis and UC Riverside this week to try to claim a Big West title.