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.
Riding their first win streak of the season, Long Beach State used efficient shooting and aggressive defense to outlast Life Pacific 88-66 on Wednesday at Walter Pyramid. That’s three consecutive wins for LBSU (6-4) with a challenge at USC on Sunday and then Big West Conference play around the corner.
“This was a good game for us,” said LBSU coach Dan Monson. “I felt good about some of our guys getting some much-needed experience and building some confidence in our younger guys. All around a nice performance.”
LBSU was led by its bench who outscored Life Pacific 44-25. AJ George led the way with 12 points off the bench on an efficient 5-6 from the field, while freshman Varick Lewis also matched with a season-high 12 points.
“We have one of the best benches in the country,” said George. “Collectively, we let the five starters go out, let them do what they do, and then we just try to come out and match their intensity.”
Starter Marcus Tsohonis did not look bothered by the hand injury that kept him out of Saturday’s game, finishing with 11 points. Amari Stroud and Aboubacar Traore each added nine points along with 10 and nine rebounds, respectively.
Although the Beach struggled from three-point range, shooting a mere 19.2 percent, the Beach found much of their points in the paint, outscoring Life Pacific 54-26 with strong layups and quality shots around the rim.
“Getting to the paint was the biggest thing for us,” said George. “It’s the best thing we do as a team.”
The Beach set the tone early, with the starting group jumping out to a 21-4 run. Much of the run was fueled by aggressive defense, including relentless pursuit of the ball and good protection of the paint.
“Stretches like those make me think this is a really good basketball team,” said Monson. “They got seven straight stops, dug in, scored off their defense, and did not give them open shots or second chance opportunities. We had a really nice stretch there.”
The Beach amped up the defensive intensity in the second half, limiting Life Pacific to just 35.1 percent from the field, forcing 10 turnovers, and relinquishing only eight points in the paint.
Impressively, the Beach accomplished this aggressive defense while also staying disciplined with fouling, sending Life Pacific to the free throw line just once.
“I think it’s a great sign,” said Monson of the free throw shooting disparity. “We’re bigger, more athletic and our defensive discipline was excellent.”
Despite the win, Monson still thinks that improvements can be made on the defensive side of the ball.
“We still gotta continue to get our identity on that end of the floor,” said Monson. “Offensively we’re very talented, we had some really nice stretches defensively. But we’re just not that consistent enough with our defense to take our team to the level we want to go.”
Long Beach State now looks forward to a big matchup Sunday against USC. With an improving defense and momentum on their side, George has full confidence in his team heading into that game.
“I just want everyone to go out and play hard,” said George. “Like coach said, just gotta rebound and come out with great energy defensively, I think we have a good chance.”