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LBSU comes up short in loss to UCLA

The 49ers wear down in the final minute as the Bruins' big men prove to be too much.

Joshua Caudill, Staff Writer

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The Long Beach State men’s basketball team went the distance with UCLA, but fell just short of an upset on Sunday night as the Bruins overpowered the 49ers in the closing minute for the 83-76 win inside Pauley Pavilion.

After a pair of free throws by junior guard Branford Jones, LBSU found itself trailing 78-76 with 1:10 remaining in the game. However, UCLA’s Isaac Hamilton would connect on a basket plus get a foul, which would seal the fate of the upset-minded 49ers.

“I liked our fight today for it being our fourth game in six days but in the end, their inside was just too big for us,” LBSU head coach Dan Monson said. “We wore down a bit because of fatigue. But they [UCLA] are a good basketball team and we’re getting better.”

Senior guard Nick Faust racked up 24 points, including five three-pointers on the night, for the 49ers, but UCLA would not be outdone as the coach’s son, point guard Bryce Alford, would match Faust with the same numbers.

Coming off a victory over No. 1 ranked Kentucky, UCLA had to prepare for a completely different style of play from LBSU.

“It’s difficult to adjust since it’s an opposite team. You go from one team that you want to shoot the three to a team that where you have to stop the three,” Bryce Alford said. “We did a decent enough job to win but it’s good for us to grind it out.”

With the 49ers lacking a true center, UCLA exploited the lack of a big man with their own duo of bigs; Tony Parker and Tyler Welsh. Both Parker and Welsh posted a double double on the night. Parker had 16 points and 10 rebounds while Welsh had 15 points with 10 boards.

Due to the 49ers focusing on those three players, the Bruins’ Hamilton took advantage and played spoiler with 21 points of his own.

“I was worried about the emotion we put into Thursday night against Kentucky and the fact that we had Long Beach State and the respect I have for [Dan] Monson and his team; I was very concerned,” UCLA head coach Steve Alford said. “We’re still not as nasty as I want to be though. We’re going to take a break for finals but we have another tough contest against Gonzaga. All in all I’m pleased. They’re a well-coached team and a good team.”

LBSU led the entire first half and controlled the tempo early. Having hit 44 three-pointers over their previous four games, the 49ers picked up right where they left off and hit seven shots from behind the arc in Sunday’s game. Faust put up 15 points in the first half and his fourth three-pointer of the night in the closing seconds of the first half gave LBSU a 38-37 lead going into the locker room.

Point guard Justin Bibbins would hit a three-pointer to open up the second half to give the 49ers a 41-37 lead, but UCLA would find another gear and started to play to their strengths; their big men inside, and outside shooting from Bryce Alford and Hamilton. The Bruins outscored LBSU 23-10, which featured a momentum-changing steal by Aaron Holiday that led to a dunk by Hamilton that got the crowd inside Pauley Pavillion on their feet. UCLA never trailed again

“I want us to sustain this. We played really solid for 30 minutes,” Monson said. “Our last five minutes of the first half and the first five minutes of the second half were unacceptable. They played harder than us for those two stints. The rest of the game we more than held our own. We have to understand against great teams, you got to sustain it for the whole game and that’s what we got to take from this tonight.”

LBSU will travel to Malibu to take on Pepperdine inside the Firestone Fieldhouse on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

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