The562’s coverage of Long Beach State athletics for the 2023-24 season is sponsored by Marilyn Bohl.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach State basketball for the 2023-24 season is sponsored by Nelson Farris.
The Amy Wright era at Long Beach State is officially underway as the Beach opened the 2023-24 season with an 82-62 victory over Biola on Wednesday night at Walter Pyramid.
Led by a career-high 25 points from Savannah Tucker, the Beach started fast and pulled away at the end to give Coach Wright her first victory as a collegiate head coach.
“I’ll be honest, I’m relieved,” said Wright during her postgame press conference. “I thought we did a great job of getting past this hurdle. I don’t know if the players felt my nervousness or anxiety or anything, but it’s not necessarily Biola, it’s the first game and you want to make a statement, you want to have a great first impression. So now we’ve got this under our belt, we’re undefeated, so we’re going to try and stay that way. But honestly, I’m so happy for the staff and the players. They’ve worked really hard the past three months, so they deserve this.”
Starting with the pregame hype video, the Beach made it clear they’ll be playing fast, furious, and fun this season. Rarely did the shot clock reach single digits as the Beach looked for–and made–a slew of shots in the opening quarter. Tucker hit back-to-back 3’s during a 9-0 Beach run to make it a 13-3 game early on.
Tucker’s third three of the opening quarter made it 28-12 after the first 10 minutes, as LBSU shot 11/21 (52.4 percent) in the first quarter.
“I feel like it kind of all started in practice,” said Tucker of her career night, which saw her shoot 10/15 from the floor and 4/7 from deep. “My teammates, my coaches have confidence in me and I feel like that’s played a big part into how I come and prepare for the games. It was just really fun to be out there and be with the girls.”
Junior point guard Patricia Chung had a terrific first half, with nine points, a team-high six rebounds and a career-high six assists in the first 20 minutes of game time. She took to the fast-paced offense beautifully and showed a return to the form she showed as a freshman with the ability to score at the rim or from the perimeter, and make plays with her passing ability.
“With the new coaching staff, obviously coach Amy, she has a lot of confidence in us,” said Chung, who finished with eight assists and only two turnovers. “She wants us to push the pace and it helps when your teammates are running and we were just all having fun.”
Long Beach led 42-32 at halftime and the visiting Eagles were able to cut that lead down to just five early in the third quarter. Ultimately, the Beach were able to find their groove and pull away late, but the middle portion of the game will give Coach Wright and her staff some things to work on before they hit the court again on Sunday. Specifically how Biola’s zone defense was able to slow down the Long Beach attack.
“From a staff standpoint, we’ve got to clean up zone offense,” Wright said. “We’ve got to give them more options and more spacing and more reads than just two or three. So that’s what I see, that’s what I thought the second quarter was.”
Junior Sydney Woodley made her Beach debut on Wednesday and showed her defensive prowess. She was a high-effort on-ball defender who collected three steals and finished with eight points. Her impact would’ve been even greater if not for persistent foul trouble.
Sophomore Addy Shoff also had a career night, just missing a double-double with 11 points and a game-high nine rebounds off the bench. The Beach held a 35-13 advantage in bench scoring, and also ruled the paint with 44 points inside and had an anticipated 28-2 edge in fast break points.
Unfortunately for Long Beach State, sophomore Kennan Ka suffered a potentially serious knee injury less than three minutes into the game and did not return to the floor. She spent the rest of the game on the bench using crutches, and Coach Wright did not know the severity of the injury postgame, but acknowledged it would be a major loss for her team.
“It’s a wait and see situation for us, we want the best for her so we’re not rushing anything,” said Wright. “She does so much for us, but her leadership skills aren’t just limited to playing basketball. She has other qualities that you didn’t get to see tonight, but this is more about her health, so we’re just going to wait and make sure everything is correctly done.”
Following the game, Coach Wright announced to the crowd at Walter Pyramid that a new tradition would be starting this season. Dubbed the “3 Minute Drill”, all of the Beach players headed into the stands to introduce themselves and thank the fans for attending.
The next chance to see the Beach in action will be Sunday at 1 p.m. when LBSU hosts Nevada.