To say the least, the Long Beach State men’s basketball team does not have a good rapport with UC Santa Barbara. Anyone who follows the team caught a glimpse of that Jan. 26. The 49ers (11-18, 5-8 Big West) dropped a 82-71 game to the Gauchos and it was made very clear the two teams did not like each other after a scuffle involving coaches and players ensued.
Nearly all game long, UCSB coaches, specifically Director of Operations David Miller, were heard making comments toward Long Beach players that were abnormal and unprofessional. Miller could be seen making faces at senior point guard Deishuan Booker and saying “Good luck in Europe.”
“Their coaches, they talk a lot of trash, they talk pretty crazy,” Booker said. “We like that stuff, you know, so [Thursday is] going to be real competitive. From start to finish.”
As of late, the 49ers have been showing signs of improvement that point to a strong finish in conference play. Not only has the team won its last two games with clutch performances, but sophomore guard Jordan Roberts has emerged offensively, averaging 17 points in the last three contests.
Long Beach has also tightened up defensively, which will be key for any type of postseason run. Over its last three games, the 49ers have held opponents under 80 points, something the team has struggled doing throughout the season.
According to head coach Dan Monson, the 49ers had 13 straight stops in the second half of Saturday’s 71-67 overtime win at UC Riverside.
“I think we’re playing the best defensively that we have but we’re going to find out,” Monson said. “[UCSB is] way more potent offensively than say Riverside is.”
Long Beach will have to contain UCSB’s lineup of four guards and one post player, which is something different compared to the style of play by other teams in the Big West. Led by graduate transfer Ar’mond Davis and sophomore guard JaQuori McLaughlin, the Gauchos have five players who average more than 10 points per game in conference play.
“It will be a good barometer to see if we’ve improved as much as we think we have in the last month,” Monson said. “Now we have to go on the road and be able to see. They’re a tough team, they play four guards and they rebound really well, spread the court.”
Thursday’s matchup is expected to see extra motivation and competitiveness from Long Beach players, but Monson said he would rather not have the team get caught up in the individual matchup, as locking in for the Big West conference tournament is first priority.
“The mental part of the game at this time of year is 90 percent of it. If we’re worried about what people on the other bench are saying, there’s no way we’re going to be locked in enough,” Monson said. “We’ve got to focus and control what we can control. I’m not concerned about their coaches or their bench, I’m concerned about their players on the court and my players on the court and just playing the best game we can.”
After Thursday’s game, Long Beach returns home for a 7 p.m. Saturday matchup against Cal Poly. The Mustangs are currently 2-10 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).