The Long Beach State men’s basketball program was too rattled to handle the pressure in a 63-55 loss to CSU Bakersfield on Monday at the Walter Pyramid, caving in front of a crowd of 345.
Only 10 players were able to suit up for the game against the Roadrunners, as the remaining six — Temidayo Yussuf, Mason Riggins, Jordan Roberts, Milos Apic, Breamon Richard and Jaice Gardner — were out with injuries or attending class. The lack of an interior presence without Yussuf and Riggins was very obvious, as the team struggled all night with rebounding and toughness in the paint.
The exhibition game showed that Long Beach needs help inside the paint and in the backcourt. The new team will have to learn one game at a time to build some type of chemistry before the Big West Conference games begin in January.
Long Beach opened up the game with some intensity and flashes of potential for a strong transition offense, jumping out to an early 11-3 lead. From that point on, the 49ers had a series of offensive woes, shooting 36 percent on field goals and 18 percent on three pointers in the first half.
CSU Bakersfield responded with some intensity, trapping and playing full-court defense as the Roadrunners closed the last eight minutes of the first half on an impressive 18-7 run. Long Beach senior forward Barry Ogalue led the way with nine points and seven rebounds at the half.
As the second half began, Monson adjusted his defense and matched the Roadrunners intensity with a 2-2-1 full court press. Things were looking up for Long Beach, taking a 39-37 lead after a dunk from junior forward KJ Byers with 14 minutes to play. The 49ers’ defensive scheme only worked for so long, as the Roadrunners took a 10-point lead with six minutes remaining in the game.
“We kind of got going with the press a little bit, but then we gave up some offensive rebounds,” head coach Dan Monson said. “We got exposed big time. [The players] got humbled and that’s going to put them back to work on Wednesday.”
Junior transfer Deishuan Booker and freshman Edon Maxhuni struggled with Bakersfield’s scrappy defense, as they combined for six turnovers. Both are adjusting to the Division I basketball level coming from junior college and overseas, respectively. As a team, Long Beach totaled 20 turnovers on the night in what was a defensive battle between the 49ers and Roadrunners.
“The game is faster here and guys are bigger, they play stronger inside and out,” Maxhuni said.
Senior Gabe Levin led the 49ers in scoring with 13 points while Ogalue posted a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Next up is the annual Homecoming exhibition game at 4 p.m. on Saturday against Cal State Dominguez Hills at the Walter Pyramid.