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.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach State men’s basketball for the 2023-24 season is sponsored by Arline & Mike Walter.
Las Vegas oddsmakers had Long Beach State men’s basketball as 14.5 point underdogs headed into its game at Michigan on Friday night.
When the Wolverines led by 16 points in the first half, ESPN Win Probability had Michigan at 95.9 percent.
Prognostications be damned.
LBSU got back into the game with gritty play off the bench before flummoxing Michigan with its zone defense. Marcus Tsohonis took it from there with a phenomenal performance to propel the Beach to a 94-86 upset victory.
“Just knowing that when we get hit in the face that we’re hitting back… to come get a win out here is a great starting point (for the season),” Tsohonis said.
Tsohonis scored a game-high 35 points on 12/19 shooting to go with seven rebounds and three assists. Forward Lassina Traore chipped in his second double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
This is LBSU’s first win over a Big Ten Conference team since beating Iowa at a neutral site in 2010.
“There’s nothing more satisfying than a road win,” coach Dan Monson said. “That’s the ultimate competitors high because you’ve stacked all of the odds against us.”
When LBSU arrived in Michigan on Thursday, the plane was late and the team had to go straight from the airport to practice. However, the bag of shoes got misplaced and they had to do walkthroughs in what Monson called, “not basketball shoes.”
“All of the obstacles of going on the road that people don’t know about, they mount up,” he added.
“That just makes the story better,” Tsohonis said. “Just knowing that we can lock in when things aren’t going our way. Being gritty, being able to communicate and staying together throughout the tough times is going to help us later on this season.”
Michigan jumped about to a 23-7 just seven minutes into the game, and Monson called a timeout to bring in his bench. Messiah Thompson, Amari Stroud and AJ George delivered the lift LBSU needed.
“They came in and shored up the game and fought and made some scrap plays and second efforts,” Monson said. “It changed the whole vibe of the bench and everybody.”
LBSU clawed its way back, and a key 7-2 run sparked by Tsohonis towards the end of the half cut the lead to 50-48 at the break.
Aboubacar Traore came back after early foul trouble in the second half and was a menace defensively. He finished with 15 points, four steals and four blocks while Thompson led the Beach bench bunch with 12 points and four assists in 18 minutes.
Michigan (3-1) made one more huge push led by Olivier Nkamhoua’s 22 points and 11 rebounds. A three-point play on a dunk gave the Wolverines a 80-76 lead with just over four minutes remaining.
Thompson answered with a three to pull the Beach within one, and a steal and transition lay-in from Jadon Jones put the Beach back in front.
As the teams traded the lead down the stretch, LBSU needed a bucket in the final minutes and Monson turned to Tsohonis.
“He was definitely an alpha dog today,” Monson said of Tsohonis. “He’s just got a knack for scoring. When he gets in a rhythm he’s really difficult to stop. He was certainly in rhythm tonight.”
The isolation play on the block worked perfectly, Tsohonis converted the bucket, and the Beach made enough free throws down the stretch to win.
Tsohonis also reached the 1,000 point mark for his collegiate career in the win. He also played at Washington and VCU before transferring to the Beach two years ago.
LBSU shot 56 percent on the night and were 8/17 from 3-point range.
Monson agreed that this is a huge win for his program, but it has to be kept in perspective.
“We’ve had big wins, but only the 2012 team has gone to the NCAA tournament after those wins,” Monson said. “So, we’ve got to enjoy a big win for the program, but we’ll trade that for getting better.”
“We can’t win a Big West championship by outscoring everybody,” he added. “There’s going to be games where Marcus isn’t in the flow. What do we do? We’ve got to get better with our defensive identity.”
Next up for LBSU is the Gulf Coast Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla. The Beach will play three games against mid-major competition from November 20-22 starting with Illinois State on the 20th.