Long Beach State to be tested by strong Anteater defense

UC Irvine Athletics

Long Beach native Michael Wilder (23) poses a challenge to the 49ers with his versatility and effort.

Daniel Van Hoosier, Staff Writer

With a five-game win streak on the line, the Long Beach State men’s basketball team will host one of its toughest conference foes when UC Irvine visits the Walter Pyramid on Saturday evening.

The ‘Niners (10-8, 6-1 Big West Conference) have won 20 consecutive home games against Big West opponents dating back to 2010, but head coach Dan Monson said Irvine (10-10, 4-3 Big West) will be very difficult to beat if the team does not put together a complete effort.

“I think right now [Irvine] is the best team in the league,” Monson said. “They play the best together. They’re the best defensive team unquestioned and offensively they’ve been together the longest, and they play like that.”

James Ennis, who is tied for fifth in the Big West averaging 17 points a night, said energy, especially on the defensive end, will be the key against the Anteaters.

“It’s going to take every morning, to come here at seven o’clock ready to defend,” he said. “We just have to buy in defensively to get a win on Saturday.”

Ennis also ranks eighth in the conference with 7.2 rebounds per contest.

Irvine is led by senior Damon Starring, whose 14.1 points per game are good for 11th in the conference.

The Anteaters also feature one of the conference’s most energetic players in Michael Wilder, who averages 7.9 points and 5.4 boards per game.

The challenge Wilder brings is his ability to play virtually any position on the floor while out-hustling his competition and playing tough defense.

“I love Mike Wilder,” Monson said. “I loved him in high school, not just as a basketball player but as a person. He’s the kind of kid you want to coach. Every time we play him, he always plays harder than anybody else out there… You’re not going to play harder than him, but somebody has to play as hard.”
Tip-off is set for 4:05 p.m. as the two squads continue the Black and Blue Rivalry.