The lights flickered and a crowd of 739 cheered as the Long Beach State women’s basketball team starting lineup was announced. The team huddled together and broke with one phrase in mind: execute.
Last season, the 49ers fared a 23-11 record under previous head coach Jody Wynn. The team was able to reach the first round of the NCAA tournament, but fell short to Oregon State 56-55.
“I’ve learned that we compete hard and the team is buying in on putting it all out on the floor,” Cammon said. “We got a lot of raw talent out here and we’re asking a lot of young players to be impact players.”
The starters are relatively inexperienced, consisting of three freshmen, a junior and a senior. In its first game against Pepperdine Friday, Long Beach played well offensively but suffered on the defensive side of the floor. The Waves shot 49.1 percent from the field compared to the 49ers’ 35.6.
Long Beach ran its offense through 6-foot-5 center freshman Emma Merriweather who scored 11 points in the first half and ended it with a 40-33 lead. Going to Merriweather in the paint worked for the team, but in the second half she was held scoreless. The team struggled to find the same offense it had in the first half, and were outscored 50-31 to end the game. Merriweather was not happy with the loss, but was glad to have played her first college basketball game.
“I’m just happy to be here and playing,” Merriweather said. “Last year I was told I wasn’t going to graduate, so to be here, it feels good.”
Freshman guard Shanaijah Davison was another bright spot for the 49ers, scoring 20 points against the Waves and adding six steals the following day in a 62-51 loss to Montana State.
“Before coming to Long Beach I had a score-first mentality, but this year I’m taking pride in my defense as well,” Davison said.
Long Beach struggled to create the same offense from its match against Pepperdine, but Cammon was impressed with the team’s defense.
“It’s a learning process and to see these girls come out and compete on the defensive side is a good sign for the future,” Cammon said.
Cammon understands the team is young and trying to figure out its identity. He isn’t worried about struggles hindering the 49ers, and is hopeful for the rest of the season.
Merriweather and the rest of the roster look to get back on track at 7 p.m., Friday, against Loyola Marymount in the Walter Pyramid.