The Long Beach State men’s basketball team has not lost to Cal State Fullerton at the Walter Pyramid since 2010. After starting out Big West play with two wins, Long Beach broke that streak Saturday night, falling to Cal State Fullerton 92-90 for the first time in nine years.
“I’m proud of our guys is the number one thing,” head coach Dan Monson said. “In the first half, I don’t know if we had a hangover from Thursday in the emotional win [over UC Irvine] but we were really out of sync. I just felt like in overtime we were gassed and we made too many mistakes.”
Senior point guard Deishuan Booker led all scorers with a career-high 33 points, five assists, five steals and three rebounds. Senior forward KJ Byers added 12 points, 11 rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Byers and sophomore guard Drew Cobb continued to set the tone on the defensive end, bringing contagious energy to the team.
“I think we’ve taken two steps forward this week and I think one of the reasons is those guys [Cobb and Byers], have given us an identity,” Monson said.
In the overtime period, Long Beach (8-11, 2-1 Big West) committed four turnovers which allowed Fullerton to get easy transition baskets. The 49ers had the ball for the final seconds of overtime, but Booker missed a contested layup as time expired, falling to the floor.
As expected, the matchup between the both teams was physical and many fouls were called. Down the stretch, both teams were in the bonus and it led to 59 total free-throw attempts. In the first half, Fullerton shot the ball well and Long Beach did not. The 49ers shot 38 percent to the Titans 60 percent, making Long Beach trail at halftime, 44-34.
In the second half, Fullerton cooled down offensively and Long Beach was able to catch up. With under three minutes to play, Long Beach trailed by eight points but came back and tied the game with the help of sophomore guard Edon Maxhuni and Booker.
For the fourth straight game, redshirt senior forward Temidayo Yussuf sat out due to knee soreness. According to Monson, Yussuf is still day-to-day and there is no exact timetable for his return. Long Beach has remained competitive without its most dominant presence and Monson said he believes Yussuf can only add to the team’s early success.
“He’s just gonna give us another dimension when he gets back,” Monson said. “These guys believe right now that they can win without him and when he comes back they’re gonna be more confident with him.”
Next up for Long Beach is a 7 p.m. road matchup Wednesday at Cal State Northridge.