The562’s coverage of Long Beach State athletics for the 2022-23 season is sponsored by Marilyn Bohl.
The recipe for playing fast was cooking on Monday night in Long Beach State’s season opening win at Cal Baptist 79-64.
“It feels good to start 1-0,” said LBSU guard Joel Murray, who finished with 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. “We had to make sure we did what we had to do defensively because defense leads to offense.”
The Beach (1-0) used high-pressure defense and balanced offense to build a lead early in the second half and hold on for victory.
“Our style is unique,” LBSU coach Dan Monson said. “We played together. We didn’t play great, but I’ve got guys cheering for each other and sharing the ball. As long as guys have that attitude we’re going to get better.”
Forward Lassina Traore recorded a double-double in his LBSU debut with 13 points and 12 rebounds while nine Beach players scored five or more points. Sophomore Jadon Jones got hot early for 13 points with five rebounds and a block. Tone Hunter came off the bench and provided four of his game-high six assists in the second half.
“We’re committed to a 10-man rotation at this point,” Monson said. “I think that guys know they can go hard for a few minutes and then (get rest). If they continue to buy into that and not worry about their stats we’ve got a chance to be a good team.”
The Beach defense held Cal Baptist to 32 percent shooting, 23 percent from 3-point range, while collecting eight steals and three blocks.
Cal Baptist (0-1) opened the game on a 5-0 run but LBSU quickly answered with an 8-0 run thanks to Murray layups in transition.
Redshirt freshman AJ George came off the bench and hit a jumper before turning a steal into a dunk and a 16-15 lead. He scored nine in his LBSU debut.
After the 12-minute timeout, L. Traore got his own miss and put it back up and in to spark a Beach rally. Murray found Jones for a transition 3-pointer, then after a Cal Baptist bucket, Jones came down and hit another 3-pointer. Murray’s steal and layup ended the run with LBSU up 28-21.
Jones’ three 3-pointers means he’s now the 18th player in program history to hit 100 3-pointers.
LBSU led 38-31 at halftime after scoring 12 points off 10 Lancer turnovers.
Monson said that his team has been able to wear teams down in the second of their two scrimmages, and that was the case on Monday.
Junior transfer forward Chayce Polynice and sophomore guard Tone Hunter were the sparks off the bench in the second half. With about 13 minutes to play, Polynice’s block led to a run out and Murray found him at the other end for a dunk. A controversial technical foul was called for hanging on the rim with a player under him.
Cal Baptist missed two open looks at the other end, and Hunter came back down to drive the lane to find Polynice for another dunk— no foul this time. The play put LBSU up 56-42.
Sophomore forward Aboubacar Traore had six points to go with nine rebounds, and there were none bigger than his put back that put LBSU up 62-49 and started a 10-0 run. Hunter found George for a 3-pointer in front of the Beach bench, Hunter hit a jumper and junior transfer Marcus Tsohonis hit a runner during the run that put the Beach up by 19 points.
Cal Baptist (0-1) and Taran Armstrong (19 points) mustered a late run but missed six consecutive shots down the stretch. LBSU maintained its lead by burning the clock and going 9-for-13 from the free throw line.
The Beach will travel to face No. 8 UCLA at 8 p.m. on Friday, and then host their own home opener on Sunday at 4 p.m. against Montana State. Both of those teams made the NCAA Tournament last year.
“We’re going up in weight class and we know we have to play a lot better,” Monson said of UCLA. “It’s not going to be easy to pressure them and keep them from scoring. If we get them sped up we have a chance.”