The562’s coverage of Long Beach State athletics for the 2022-23 season is sponsored by Marilyn Bohl.
The Long Beach State women’s basketball team was trailing 6-4 early in their Big West contest against UCSD in the Walter Pyramid Saturday evening. The Beach locked down the Tritons over the next quarter and a half, going on a 25-4 run en route to an impressive 70-52 victory.
Redshirt senior Tori Harris was sensational shooting it Saturday, with a career-high 32 points to lead the Beach.
“Yesterday was my dad’s birthday so today was his gift,” she said after the game. “And he better not ask me for anything else.”
While Harris admitted she was joking after that crack, she probably didn’t need to be. There aren’t many better moments as a basketball dad than seeing your daughter score more points than anyone at her college did in a decade, a she went 9/14 from the field, 3/7 from 3-point range (the rest of the team was a combined 0/7) and 11/12 at the free throw line.
Fortunately for Harris, her parents were in attendance at the game, as well.
“My parents were in town for the game, it doesn’t matter where the game is, they’ll be there, I can see my mom with her foam finger dancing everywhere,” said Harris. “I love them and their support. It means everything to me.”
While Harris’ eye-popping scoring performance stole the show, the game was really won by the Beach’s defense, especially that impressive 10-minute stretch that included a 19-0 run by Long Beach from the middle of the first into the second period.
LBSU coach Jeff Cammon and his staff have always built their teams from the defense on out--they forced 23 turnovers Saturday including 10 in the first quarter. Cammon’s defense is a multiple-look approach that sees rapid switches from a full court press into a zone into a matchup zone into man--anything that will keep an opponent off guard. There was no doubt they did that Saturday, allowing just two field goals in the first quarter as they built an insurmountable lead. As fun as it is to watch, Cammon said he’s not usually enjoying himself as his team goes on those runs.
“In the moment I don’t know how much I’m enjoying it, but it’s cool to go back and watch the film and see how effective we are,” said Cammon. “Everything starts with defensive intensity for us, being active--we just want to dictate things on that end of the ball. With our length--and we recruit to that--these young ladies fit it perfectly.”
Harris and Bambrick are the team’s leading scorers on the season as they were Saturday, putting in a combined 46 points. But their growth as defenders is more exciting to Cammon than their ability to score it. They were both disruptive in passing lanes, and combined for six of the Beach’s 14 steals.
“They’ve both been scorers where they’ve been,” Cammon said of the two transfers. “To have them come here and adapt to what we do, it’s making them a more complete player. They decided that they want to really commit themselves to defending--they both play multiple positions which is challenging in our system. They’re hoopers so they understand the game, they have that IQ--now it’s just about getting reps.”
“I’ve been to two other colleges and defense was never the priority like it is here,” said Harris. “I love it because it helps us get the offense rolling most of the time.”
Indeed, the Beach had 22 points off turnovers in the 18-point win.
“It was a little bit of a process when I got here learning it,” said Bambrick. “I’ve always had an offensive mindset. Learning the angles and where to be at the right moment took some time--I think each game is all about the growth.”
The Beach (11-7, 6-2) continue to grow on their four-game win streak; they host Cal Poly on Thursday at 7pm then travel to UC Davis next Saturday. Long Beach is currently second in the Big West, behind UC Irvine.