Freshmen duo keep 49ers atop Big West
T.J. Robinson, Larry Anderson combine for 44 points on 15-of-21 shooting
The Long Beach State men’s basketball team needed two extra periods to put away the Pacific Tigers, 81-80, Saturday night at the Walter Pyramid to seal its first conference sweep of the season.
Freshman point guard Casper Ware converted two free throws with 13.4 seconds left on the clock to cap off the 49ers’ (12-10, 7-3 Big West Conference) seventh conference victory of the season.
UOP guard Terrell Smith missed two free throws with 42.5 seconds left that would have given the Tigers (12-9, 5-5 Big West) a three-point lead. Ware found redemption from the charity stripe after a 3-point shot rimmed in-and-out at the end of the first overtime.
“It [the shot] felt great coming out of my hands … I was about to start running around,” Ware said.
LBSU had four players score in double figures which included Ware, Stephan Gilling, Larry Anderson and T.J. Robinson.
Robinson tied a career high with 24 points while he pulled in 10 rebounds for his third straight double-double. The freshman big man is now tied for first in the Big West in double-doubles with five.
Anderson also had a big night for the ‘Niners by recording a new career high in points for the second consecutive game with 20, to go along with six assists. The freshman guard also got the job done on the defensive end as he forced an illegal screen, which fouled out the Tigers leading scorer Bryan LeDuc late in the first overtime.
Gilling and Ware both finished with 11 points, while Ware passed his way to a new career high in assists with nine.
Head coach Dan Monson was happy with his team’s performance, especially the freshmen, as they are learning to play without leading scorer Donovan Morris, who sat out with a foot injury.
“You have to win a game like that by committee … we’re not going to just anoint somebody [to take the last shot] while D-Mo [Morris] is out,” said Monson. “We had a lot of guys step up huge.”
LBSU has had their struggles shooting free throws this season, but the team shot nearly 82 percent from line in the contest.
“You’ve got to give our guys credit, they kept battling. They stepped up and hit free throws which a lot of people have criticized their free throw shooting, especially those freshmen,” Monson said. “But, they came through when they needed to.”
The Tigers came into the game second in 3-point field goal percentage in the Big West, and it showed as they converted on 12 of their 26 attempts from beyond the arc.
Smith led UOP with 18 points and five rebounds and was one of five Tigers to score in double figures. LeDuc and Chad Troyer had 13 and 11 points, respectively, off the bench.
LBSU controlled the tempo in the first half as they led for the entire opening period. The 49ers played with an intensity on both sides of the ball that had been lacking in their previous three home losses. They used the extra enthusiasm to attack the glass as they out-rebounded the Tigers, 39-26, which included a 14-8 advantage on the offensive boards.
The 49ers are confident as they hit the road, where they are 3-0 in Big West play, as they take on UC Riverside on Wednesday.
“We gel together away from home … we know we have to come together because we don’t have our fans there to pump us up,” Ware said. “We just have each other, so we come together and get the job done.”