Long Beach State wins in tough road rivalry game
Much to the dismay of 2,013 fans who often sounded more like 5,000, the Long Beach State men’s basketball team ended its three-year losing streak at Titan Gym after a back-and-forth contest Saturday night.
Propelled by a monster second-half performance by James Ennis, the ‘Niners (10-8, 6-1 Big West Conference) defeated Cal State Fullerton (10-8, 3-3 Big West), 81-71, for a fifth straight victory.
The senior guard scored 19 of his game-high 23 points and grabbed nine of his 11 rebounds after the break, extending his steak of double-digit scoring to 23 games in the process. The double-double is his third of the season.
Ennis shot 6-of-12 from the field and 11-of-12 from the free-throw line on the night, including a two-handed dunk on a lob from junior guard Keala King which put his team up 74-68 with less than three minutes to play.
It would have been only the second-most electrifying play of the evening had a thunderous one-handed tomahawk throw-down on which Ennis elevated completely over the defender ( a jam easily worthy Sportscenter’s “Top 10″) not been waived off due to a questionable charging call.
“Everybody stayed together,” Ennis said of the team’s ability to hold off a final Fullerton run in the end. “We just listened to coach and just went with the flow and what he had planned for us.”
In a game that featured eight ties and 16 lead changes, one of the biggest factors in the win was the 49er defense, which held the nation’s third most potent scoring attack (82.8 points per game) to 11.8 points under its average. The Titans shot just 39.1 percent from the field and were a woeful 5-of-24 (20.8 percent) from beyond the 3-point line.
King tallied a double-double of his own with 12 points and 11 boards to go along with a team-high seven assists.
The 22 boards collected by Ennis and King worked to make-up for the missing presence down low of junior forward Dan Jennings, who did not travel with the team due to lack of discipline during yesterday’s practice.
LBSU head coach Monson said he hopes the issue will be resolved without Jennings having to miss any more action.
“I think Dan’s frustrated,” he said. “He came to practice yesterday and his attitude was not where I wanted it to be so I told him ‘you need to stay back and figure that out because that’s a detriment to the team and we can’t have that.’ “
Monson said the win on the road, paired with Thursday’s overtime victory at UC Riverside, could help get the team moving forward as it continues to search for consistency and identity.
“We grew this week,” he said. “We had two character wins as far as falling behind on the road, giving up the lead and losing momentum. Being able to get themselves back and trust each other to get two wins, I think the team is growing. They’re getting confidence in each other offensively and defensively.”
Freshman Deng Deng and sophomore Mike Caffey added to the balanced scoring attack, compiling 15 and 14, respectively. For the fifth game in a row, four ‘Niners scored in double-figures.
The Titans were paced by forward Sammy Yeager, who had 22 points and seven boards. Guard D.J. Seeley added 17 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals.
LBSU returns to the court Saturday when it hosts UC Irvine (10-10, 4-3) at 4:05 p.m.