Long Beach State men’s basketball is the top seed for the Big West Conference Tournament this week in Las Vegas, and the Beach needs three wins in three nights to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012.
LBSU (18-11, 12-3) won the regular season title on Saturday and will start the tournament in the quarterfinals on Thursday at 12 p.m. against CSU Bakersfield at Dollar Loan Center. The semifinals are scheduled for Friday night, and the championship is Saturday night.
After their first meeting was canceled due to COVID-19 protocols, LBSU beat CSUB 74-65 on Feb. 3 at Walter Pyramid.
The Beach used an active zone defense to turn the tide in the final minutes of that win. The game was tied 55-55 with 7:41 left in regulation, but LBSU outscored the visitors 19-10 down the stretch. Senior guard Colin Slater scored a game-high 23 points while fellow guard Joel Murray had 16 points and a game-high five assists.
Of the 15 conference games LBSU played this year, 12 of them came down to the last minutes. Coach Dan Monson said his teams chemistry has been the difference.
“That shows to me the connectedness of the players and connectedness of this program,” Monson said. “This is a team, and that’s so fun to be a part of and I appreciate it so much.”
The Big West announced on Monday that Slater was named the Big West Player of the Year after averaging 14.7 points per game during league play and handing out a team-best 47 assists.
Monson was given Big West Coach of the Year honors for the fourth time in his career, and freshman Jadon Jones was named the Big West Defensive Player of the Year after he led all perimeter defenders with 27 blocked shots.
LBSU (19-7, 12-6) will open the Big West tournament against UC Davis in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. The Beach split their season series with the Aggies.
Senior Maddi Utti was named Defensive Player of the Year and First-Team All Big West after leading the Beach with 13.8 points per game. She also led LBSU with 8.8 rebounds per game, 79 steals, and 24 blocks. She has recorded five 20-point performances.