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Basketball Long Beach State

Women’s Basketball: No. 6 USC Holds Off Late Rally From Long Beach State 

The562’s coverage of Long Beach State athletics for the 2022-23 season is sponsored by Marilyn Bohl.

The562’s coverage of Long Beach State Basketball is sponsored by CSULB Distinguished Alumnus Nelson Farris.

“Move the ball,” USC head coach Lindsay Gottlieb yelled halfway through the first quarter.

That was the theme of the day at Walter Pyramid, as Long Beach State hosted No. 6 USC for a fast-paced affair for their last game before the start of Big West conference play.

The Beach had their usual starting five, but the visiting Trojans were missing three regular starters, including star freshman and No. 1 recruit for the class of 2023 JuJu Watkins, who was out with an illness. USC had to fight down the stretch in order to remain unbeaten, holding off Long Beach for an 85-77 victory.

“We knew we were going to play against USC,” Beach head coach Amy Wright said. “It didn’t matter for their team who was playing or who was not. They’re No. 6 in the nation for a reason.”

USC came into the game hot, winning the tip off and then quickly moving the ball around the court to get some good looks. Even so, there wasn’t a score until over a minute had passed in the game, when redshirt sophomore Taylor Bigby drained a three for the Trojans.

Long Beach State was able to keep up with the quick pace. The game looked even halfway through the first quarter, as both teams had 11 points with 4:38 left on the clock. Wright said her team switched their strategy to match their opponent.

“We wanted to mix it up a little bit,” Wright said. “We had to do something differently in order to keep them on their toes.”

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The Beach continued to keep the energy up as substitutions rotated in and out. Freshman forward Jada Crawshaw was especially explosive off the bench, scoring her first career double-double in this game with 12 points and 10 rebounds, including six on the offensive end.

But turnovers soon became a common occurrence throughout the game, with the Beach giving it away 22 times while USC only had 12 turnovers. The Trojans capitalized on these mistakes, scoring 23 of their points off these errors. 

USC also gained possession many times on missed layups from Long Beach State. The third quarter showed some gems from the Beach, as they hit their last eight field goal attempts, shooting 9/11 in the quarter. But the Beach missed a lot of quality scoring chances in the closing minutes of the game, as they were unable to close the deficit. Long Beach State acknowledged the importance of these chances, saying they have to continue working.

“Every single detail matters and we’re gonna continue working on those little details,” Wright said. “You got to have the building blocks to build the house. So right now, we’re still in the building block stage.”

While some small details were struggles for Long Beach, they dominated in other areas. One strong point for the Beach was rebounds, as they had 49 to USC’s 39 throughout the game. The team said they had been emphasizing rebounds after some recent results. 

“I feel like we played really hard today,” Junior guard Savannah Tucker said. “We got in, we played aggressive, we crashed. I feel like we did a good job on that.”

Tucker also helped her team in free throws. She was 100% from the line and her 11 free throws helped Long Beach State go 71% in free throws. Tucker finished with a team-high 17 points while chipping in eight rebounds.

Long Beach was also dangerous in the paint, scoring 46 of their points in the key, while USC only had 20.

The Beach were utilizing their strengths towards the end of the game, as they were trying to make a comeback against the Trojans. While the Beach trailed for the majority of the game, they cut the deficit down to four points 2:20 left to play on a driving layup by Sydney Woodley. 

The Beach conceded eight points on free throws to end USC’s scoring, ultimately dropping the game in an 85-77 loss. McKenzie Forbes was the leading scorer of the game, scoring a career-high 36 points for the Trojans.

The Beach had four players in double-figures, with Lovely Sonnier scoring 14 points on 7/12 shooting to go along with Tucker’s 17 points, 14 from Woodley and a dozen from Crawshaw.

This game was the highest attendance of the year so far for the Beach, with over 1,200 fans coming to watch this midday, mid-week matchup. With Long Beach continuing to fight, the entirety of Walter Pyramid was buzzing. Beach fans were hoping to watch the women upset the Trojans; a familiar tale for Long Beach State basketball this year after the men’s team picked up a win at Galen Center earlier this month.

“It’s always fun to play in front of a big crowd, whether it’s your fans or not,” Tucker said. “I felt like everyone was here to watch a good game. I think we gave that to them.”

Despite the loss, Long Beach State put up a strong showing against the nationally-ranked Trojans. USC has beaten three other Big West opponents by an average margin of 40+ points, but had to play a full 40 minutes to knock off the Beach.

“We should be proud of the effort and energy that we put forth and it should be a confidence builder going into conference play,” Wright said. “We need to be the best version of Long Beach State that we can be.”

The Beach begin conference play on Dec. 28, when they host Cal State Fullerton in Walter Pyramid.

PHOTOS: Long Beach State vs. USC, Women’s Basketball
Nina Fife
Nina Fife is a freshman at Pepperdine University majoring in journalism. She began working with The562 in the inaugural intern class before being hired as their Social Media Director and now Assistant Editor. Nina is a proud Long Beach schools alum who graduated with valedictorian honors.