Daily 49er

Long Beach enters Big West play working on fundamentals

The 49ers begin conference with a home game against UC Davis Saturday.

Senior+guard+Deishuan+Booker+drives+past+a+Pepperdine+defender+Dec.+20.
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Long Beach enters Big West play working on fundamentals

Senior guard Deishuan Booker drives past a Pepperdine defender Dec. 20.

Senior guard Deishuan Booker drives past a Pepperdine defender Dec. 20.

Alex Manfredi | Daily 49er

Senior guard Deishuan Booker drives past a Pepperdine defender Dec. 20.

Alex Manfredi | Daily 49er

Alex Manfredi | Daily 49er

Senior guard Deishuan Booker drives past a Pepperdine defender Dec. 20.

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The Long Beach State men’s basketball team has had two weeks to prepare for its biggest and most important stretch of the season: Big West conference play.

Prior to a blowout 124-52 win over Division II Bethesda Saturday, Long Beach (6-10) has not been satisfied with its defensive presence. The 49ers dropped a road game at Stanford 93-86 Dec. 29 and came away disappointed in their defense, feeling like they could have upset Stanford for the second year in a row.

“We’ve basically had two weeks to work on ourselves,” head coach Dan Monson said. “We weren’t happy with the way we defended against Stanford and went back to some fundamentals.”

In practice this week, Monson and his coaching staff have made it a focus to get players to toughen up. The 49ers play two physical, big teams to open up conference play in last year’s regular season champion UC Davis and this year’s favorite in UC Irvine. Long Beach has been very competitive with each other in practice, pushing each other’s limits in box-out rebounding drills and half court sets running plays.

“League becomes more physical, refs let things go more, Monson said. “We’ve just been trying to get a little bit more toughness to us.”

A big key to the 49ers’ “toughness” is redshirt senior forward Temidayo Yussuf, the teams vocal leader and most dominant presence who averages 12.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Yussuf will be a game-time decision for Saturday’s 4 p.m. matchup against UC Davis due to knee soreness.

“The knee he had surgery on last year has just been stiff and we’ve been cautious with it,” Monson said. “We’re not gonna jeopardize the season for one game [against UC Davis] so we’ll make the decision gametime.”

UC Davis is led by senior point guard TJ Shorts II, who currently averages 14.2 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. Last season, Shorts and the Aggies beat Long Beach twice. The second game was a 105-104 double overtime victory for UC Davis where Shorts made a game winning three point shot.

After Saturday’s game against the Aggies, Long Beach will head to UC Irvine for a 7 p.m. matchup Wednesday.

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