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Long Beach State men’s basketball team falls to UC Irvine in Big West semifinals

LBSU can't overcome turnovers and offensive woes in semifinal loss.

Long+Beach+State%27s+sophomore+forward+Mason+Riggins+walks+off+the+floor+in+disappointment+after+the+49ers+lost+to+UC+Irvine+Friday+night.
Long Beach State's sophomore forward Mason Riggins walks off the floor in disappointment after the 49ers lost to UC Irvine Friday night.

Long Beach State's sophomore forward Mason Riggins walks off the floor in disappointment after the 49ers lost to UC Irvine Friday night.

Benjamin Hammerton

Benjamin Hammerton

Long Beach State's sophomore forward Mason Riggins walks off the floor in disappointment after the 49ers lost to UC Irvine Friday night.

Christian Gonzales, Staff Writer

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ANAHEIM — Big West coach of the year Russell Turner walked toward the locker room flexing  after a dominating defensive performance by his team.
UC Irvine’s defense was the focal point of the game as the Anteaters blocked 10 shots against Long Beach State on their way to a 62-57 victory in the semifinals of the Big West Tournament at the Honda Center.
UCI will play UC Davis tomorrow in the Big West Finals at 8:30 p.m. at the Honda Center.
LBSU coach Dan Monson was proud of the season, especially facing the adversity and being resilient the entire season.
“I’m proud of all these guys,” Monson said. “This has been one of the best groups I’ve had, as far as representing this university if you take out that we didn’t win as much as we should’ve, but this is a group of good guys.”
UC Irvine got off to a fast start behind Big West Defensive Player of the year  Jonathan Galloway who scored the Anteaters first four points of the game. He contained the 49ers front court early by disrupting and blocking shots.
Right when LBSU had cut the lead down to 15-14, UCI had answers attacking the paint.
LBSU’s productive players on the offensive end were juniors Barry Ogalue and Justin Bibbins.
Bibbins closed the 49ers horrendous shooting half with a 3-pointer to cut the Anteaters lead 31-25.
“That was the whole focus of our defensive game plan in shoot-around today,” Turner said on defending Bibbins. “He’s crafty. He searches fouls a lot. There were a couple of other key things we did that I’d like to keep to myself. He’s going to be one of the guys favored to be Player of the Year next year.”
Bibbins shot 4-for-15 from the field the entire the game and finished with 15 points.
It was clear that the 49ers were outsized and overmatched as they couldn’t get anything going in the paint.
The 49ers shooting only shot 30 percent in the first half, and 32 percent the whole game.
LBSU’s front court established themselves in the first minutes of the second half by scoring in the paint, while UCI had the 2-3 zone defensively.
Back to back 3-pointers by sophomore Noah Blackwell cut UCI’s lead to 40-36.
Shortly after sophomore Temidayo Yussuf was doubled team and he took it himself to finish a contested layup over 7 foot 2 inch UCI senior center Ioannis Dimakopoulos.
Yussuf pulled down a career-high 15 rebounds for LBSU and 10 points for his second double-double of the year.
But eight unanswered points from the 49ers gave them a 46-42 edge with 10 minutes left.
UCI responded with a 9-0 run after Nelson drove to the paint to find Martin to handed it to Galloway for an easy uncontested layup. Anteaters led 57-51, with 3:21 left.
The Anteaters’ defense had a season-high 10 blocks, Galloway was responsible for five of them.
UC Irvine advances to the tournament championship game for the sixth time in school history and third in the last five year.
Bibbins has a reason to be more motivated for his senior season at LBSU.
“We just got to change the culture of the program and that’s the exciting part,” Bibbins said. “I always look at it from that point of view and you know, that starts next week. We got a freshman coming in that I believe will give us a different look on this team. We will back next year, you just got to look on the bright side of things.”
That freshman is Jordan Roberts from  Ridgeview High school Bakersfield, California. A 6 feet 8 inches guard that will be looking to change the program.
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