Redshirt senior guard Bryan Alberts caught fire from deep, senior point guard Deishuan Booker got into the paint, drew fouls and the 49ers were able to squeak out a victory over Northridge in the final seconds Wednesday. Booker gave Long Beach the 80-78 win after drawing a foul on a three point attempt and making all three free throws to ice the game. Booker is currently leading the nation in free throws made with 206 total.
A quiet crowd of 1,848 didn’t have much to cheer for until the 10 minute mark in the second half of Long Beach State’s (10-18, 4-8 Big West) win. After one of its worst 30 minute offensive stretches of the season, Long Beach found victory.
“Obviously we made that one interesting to say the least,” head coach Dan Monson said. “I’ve been in a lot of games over the last 30 years and that one was as difficult of a win.”
Throughout most of the night, Long Beach looked destined to lose the game. No matter what type of shot it took, the 49ers couldn’t find a way to put the ball in the basket. Long Beach shot 35 percent to Northridge’s 50. The Matadors had more energy all night, but that all changed with under 10 minutes left, as the 49ers found ways to score behind four second half threes from Alberts and 18 second half points from Booker.
Alberts and Booker both finished with 20 points each. Long Beach also got 15 points from sophomore guard Jordan Roberts. After missing the last game at UC Davis, Alberts returned Tuesday after being gone for a week in Europe due to the death of a family member.
“It felt good coming back to this family here,” Alberts said. “They believed in me, even though I was gone for a little, so I just took advantage of that.”
In practice earlier this week, the team made it a focus to come out with intensity and establish a defensive presence. In the first half, the 49ers came out exactly how they said they wouldn’t leading up to the matchup. Long Beach started the game shooting 6-for-24, while being unable to get the job done on the defensive end as well.
Northridge jumped out to an early lead behind interior buckets from redshirt freshman Lamine Diane and three pointers from junior Rocket Henderson Jr. and sophomore Terrell Gomez. Henderson Jr. led all scorers at halftime with 11 points, while Roberts led the 49ers with eight points. Long Beach trailed 42-31 at the break.
“I challenged them as competitors and their character of who we are,” Monson said. “It was a defining moment that we needed to change. I’m proud of our guys for being able to flip the script.”
Throughout the first 10 minutes of the second half, it appeared the 49ers were the same team they were in the first, with little intensity and missed shots. Then Alberts took over, Booker woke up and the 49ers cut the Matadors’ lead down to two points with two minutes to play.
In crunch time, Long Beach was able to capitalize at the free throw line and get timely baskets from Booker. On the final play, Booker sold the foul on a final three-point attempt to win the game and ended up making all three free throws.
Next up for Long Beach is a 5 p.m. matchup Saturday at UC Riverside. The Highlanders are currently 3-8 in Big West play.
Alex Manfredi is a fourth year journalism major and has worked for the Daily 49er for nearly three years. He started as a sports writer, then Assistant Social Media Editor and is now Assistant Sports Editor after returning from studying abroad in the Spring 2018 semester. He has covered Long Beach city council meetings, men’s and women’s water polo and the men’s basketball beat at LBSU. After growing up and attending high school in Northern California, he came to Long Beach straight out of high school and has aspirations to earn his master’s degree in Sports Management and later work for a professional sports team. Alex is a Sacramento Kings fan, Oakland Athletics fan and New England Patriots fan (due to family ties, not bandwagoning).