The Long Beach State women’s basketball team has not won a regular season Big West title since 2006-06, and have not won one outright since Joan Bonvicini was coaching in 1989-89. After a wild comeback on Thursday night that saw them overcome an 18-point deficit to third-place UC Santa Barbara, the Beach are on the brink of making history this year, as they remain in first place in the conference with just three games to go.
LBSU women’s coach Jeff Cammon has done a great job building a team around his system this year, and he said he was happy to see his team bounce back from a slow start to Thursday’s game.
“It was just resetting and realizing that we weren’t meeting our standard of what we want to do every day,” he said. “We just weren’t locked in, we just rolled out of bed and thought we could continue to win.”
Ma’Qhi Berry led the team in its fight back from the big deficit and eventually had the game-winning layup with less than a minute left in the Beach’s 66-63 win over the Gauchos. The Beach won the second half 45-24 to overcome the slow first half.
“Ma’Qhi’s leadership really shined through,” said Cammon.
The win was the team’s 13th in a row, tied for the eighth-longest win streak in all of the NCAA.
The Beach now have three games left–on the road at CSUN Saturday, at Bakersfield on Thursday next week, and then at home against UC Davis next Saturday. With three wins, they’d win their first regular season title in 16 years, and first outright in more than three decades.
Cammon, understandably, doesn’t really want to talk about it, although with a win over CSUN the lights will get a lot brighter.
“When you’re in this situation, I think everyone knows, it’s the elephant in the room,” said Cammon. “We’ve just tried to stay consistent and hit the mark every day. We know what we’re playing for, but we’ve known that since the Summer. Now that the opportunity is here, they can see it and touch it. It’s reality.”
The Beach should have the Big West title all but wrapped up, but the Big West Conference office made a surprising decision to grant UC Irvine two “no contest” decisions on a pair of games the Anteaters did not feel they could play due to player availability. Irvine carried only 13 players on their roster this year and had seven available for the two games, but opted not to play them. The Big West granting no contest as opposed to forfeits was a surprise to many who follow the sport, since shorthanded rosters in the conference late in the season are the rule, not the exception.
“I don’t want to comment on it really,” said Cammon. “I’ve seen it first hand, it’s something that happens to all of us. I feel bad for them. There’s only so many things you can control, that’s why we keep 15 on the roster because I’ve seen this story before. Injuries happen. We lost two kids including a starter before the season even started. I just hope we’re healthy enough to finish.”
Because Irvine was given “no contests” instead of forfeits, the Beach are still tied with them in the loss column, although they’re ahead in wins and win percentage. The way the next three games go for both teams will decide how it plays out, but if LBSU goes 2-1 and Irvine wins out, the Anteaters would have a higher win percentage.
Had Long Beach State under Jody Wynn or more recently under Cammon been able to take a “no contest” when they were down to seven available players, the Beach likely would have had a more recent Big West title than 2005-06.
“We’re just trying not to focus on it, hopefully it’s something can be revisited in the offseason,” said Cammon of the rule and potential outcome over the next two weeks.