Live updates from court side at the Pyramid
Tonight is the night that 49er fans have been waiting for. The night that was envisioned after Dan Monson was brought on board to right the LBSU basketball ship. The night that Long Beach State seemed so poised for after signing "The Big Four" of Ware, Anderson, Robinson and Phelps. Though there have been a few speed bumps along the way, tonight is the night that Long Beach State can seal the deal on their first Big West Regular Season Championship since the 2006-07 season. Fittingly, standing in their way are the second place Cal Poly Mustangs, the only team that can mathematically catch the 49ers.
The Mustangs represent the antithesis to LBSU's offensive philosophy. Long Beach leads the conference at 75.8 points per game. Cal Poly averages a league low 60.5. But offense isn't Cal Poly's focus, and with their 9-4 league record it is no surprise that they are tops in scoring defense at only 56.6 per contest.
When these opposites clashed early in league play, it was LBSU's offense that prevailed, using a 29-8 run over the final 1:45 of the first half and first 6:31 in the second half to build a 49-26 lead that The Beach never looked back from, finishing with a 69 - 53 victory in San Luis Obispo.
Keys to the game.
Match defensive intensity. The Niners are no defensive slouches themselves, ranking fourth in the conference and allowing only 66.8 point per game. And though Long Beach's offensive philosophy is to play at an uptempo speed, those uptempo opportunities are mostly going to happen when the defense is getting stops and turnovers. The players and coaches have said it numerous times, but defense leads to offense for this group and if LB can prevent Cal Poly from getting settled in their defense, that is when the Mustangs are most vulnerable.
Attack the rim. CP's three point defense is allowing opponents to hit at an astonishingly low 26.6 clip. Cal Poly's length on the perimeter clearly causes problems for long range shooters, Long Beach shot only 2-13 the last time the two teams faced off. LB State shouldn't completely disband their outside shots, but with the CP defense stretching out so far to protect the perimeter, it means driving lanes for the quicker Long Beach players. Casper Ware and Larry Anderson especially need to attack the bucket and get to the foul line for easy points.
Control your destiny. Long Beach State is in a great spot. A win and you're in situation, at home, for the regular season conference title. The 49ers would be wise to capitalize on the raucous crowd that will be present, get off to an early lead and force the Mustangs to try and run (no pun intended) with the quicker 49ers. If Long Beach can do that, they will control their own destiny and most likely end the night on a ladder with scissors in their hands cutting down the nets in the Walter Pyramid.
16 minutes til tip
Student section again getting packed to the brim. Rest of the crowd starting to file in. Both teams seem pretty focused.
Cal Poly Mustangs: O'Brien, Love, Lewis, Hanson, Donahue
Yet again, no changes for the home team: Ware, Plater, Anderson, Robinson, Phelps
Long Beach State players are JACKED UP. Hopefully they can harness their energy and start the half off on a run.
17:17 left in first half LBSU 6 - CP 8
Eugene Phelps takes a charge from Lewis and the bench loves it. I haven't seen this much energy from them all year. Casper has drained two threes to start the game.
Lewis has answered with two three's of his own. He is one player that Long Beach really doesn't want to let get going.
14:34 left in first half LBSU 12 - CP 12
Poly in a 2-3 zone. Which Cas seems content to bomb from outside as he drills another three. He has scored all the points for Long Beach thus far.
Plater drains a three of his own. Maybe the Niners heard a little too much about that nation leading three point defense percentage.
11:55 left in first half LBSU 18 - CP 17
Casper off to a hot start with 11 points. Long Beach settling a bit too much for jumpers. When it goes in, it's all good, but contested shots by T.J. and Wilson are not what this offense is predicated on.
7:26 left in first half LBSU 23 - CP 19
Turnovers give CP a few run outs for easy buckets and the game is tied up.
Casper hitting those three's early has really forced Poly to bite on his pump fake, allowing him to drive and find T.J. in the paint.
He pump fakes again, and this time heads to the hole for a pretty layup. Ware has 13 of Long Beach State's 23 points.
3:48 left in first half LBSU 26 - CP 22
With so many scorers on the floor for Long Beach, The Beach can spread a defense pretty thin, Poly left Brandon Nevens wide open for a three and he calmly nailed it.
Turnovers really limiting the Niners offense, they already have eight in the half.
48.9 seconds left in first half LBSU 31 - CP 28
Casper races down the court for a monster block on the defensive end, he pinned it against the backboard like you see LeBron do on Sports Center.
After another Poly turnover Cas feeds Larry for a thunderous dunk.
Three point shooting by the Mustangs keeping this a back and forth affair.
Halftime LBSU 31 - CP 28
Cal Poly keeps the ball for the entire final 48 seconds on an offensive board, but fails to convert either of their shots and we're at the half.
Long Beach holding Cal Poly to a 35 field goal percentage, but the Mustangs have converted on 6-12 three's. Perimeter game is really all Cal Poly has going for them, they have only made five shots inside the arc, and have not even made it to the charity stripe.
Long Beach is shooting 50 percent for the half, and have connected on 5-13 beyond the arc. (38.5 percent) The Niners made it to the line four times, but only converted two.
Poly winning the offensive board battle 7-3, allowing them to limit Niner possessions. That and Long Beach's 9 turnovers.
LBSU needs to limit Cal Poly offensive boards and and close out on open shooters. If Long Beach can get an offensive flow early in the half, they should be in good shape.
15:45 left in second half LBSU 35 - CP 36
A missed assignment on defense and a turnover are how Long Beach opens the half. They need some intensity to get a run going.
Long Beach creating turnovers, but can't score. Cal Poly converts on a point blank shot and take the lead in to the media.
12:08 left in second half LBSU 39 - CP 38
The pace right now is right up Cal Poly's alley with neither team in an offensive flow or putting many points on the board this half.
T.J. plays some tight D on Shawn Lewis as the shot clocks winds down leading a 3-2 break for The Beach with Robinson converting on a layup. Timeout Coach Callero.
9:38 left in second half LBSU 44 - CP 43
Long Beach trying to use a press to quicken the pace of the game, but the Mustangs still content to use the entire shot clock and U'u (not a typo) hits a jumper.
Larry moves in the paint and gets the basket and the foul but can't convert the free throw.
Casper can feel the Mustangs gaining a little momentum after an offensive board and three, so he drains a three of his own, giving him 20 points in the game.
7:46 left in second half 44 - 43
Long Beach not doing themselves any favors at the line, with Phelps the latest to miss a pair from the stripe.
Long Beach's offense is really struggling, shooting only 25 percent in the half. These are the kind of grind 'em out games that Cal Poly has forced their opponents in all year.
3:29 left in second half LBSU 51 - CP 50
Again, Larry can't convert on a three point play. Any Long Beach drive is really getting harassed in the lane, and few fouls are being called.
Casper again responds to a Cal Poly lead with a three.
1:33 left in second half LBSU 56 - CP 51
Greg giving Long Beach some energy with intense defense a made three.
Long Beach has a tiny slice of breathing room and a WHOLE LOT of energy. Up by five with 1:33 to go.
58.5 seconds left in second half LBSU 56 - CP 53
Cas went for a steal and ended up fouling Donahue, sending him to the line where he made both his shots.
23.9 left in second half LBSU 58 - CP 53
It was a missed three by Greg but it might as well have been a pass to Larry as he collects the airball and puts in a putback.
4.1 seconds left in second half LBSU 59 - CP 55
Plater makes the smart play and heads deep on an inbounds play, getting intentionally fouled, he splits his free throws, and then Casper fouled on the next play. Monson calls time before he heads to the line.
BIG WEST CHAMPS!