Long Beach State came away from Saturday’s matchup against Cal Poly with its fourth straight conference win, with a final score of 94-85. The win puts the 49ers in reach of a top-four seed in the Big West tournament which would provide some timely rest after a long season.
The 49ers (13-18, 7-8 Big West) started off well against the Mustangs (6-21, 2-12 Big West), jumping out to a 10-to-2 run and controlling the pace of the game as senior point guard Deishuan Booker pushed the ball up the floor.
With Booker able to probe the paint at-will to find his shot and open shooters surrounding the perimeter, the Mustangs switched to a 2-3 zone in hopes of shutting down the 49ers’ drives.
“I knew going to the basket I would have a lot of time and area to finish over them so that was a good thing, but [coach] always wants me to attack early,” Booker said.
The zone didn’t help much as the 49ers finished the half strong, shooting 47 percent from the field and knocking down 9-of-12 free throw attempts, along with some momentum swinging and-1 calls and a huge poster dunk by senior forward Mason Riggins to get the crowd on its feet.
“I thought we came out pretty sharp and had a good start to the game,” head coach Dan Monson said. “We had some stops and were able to get up early and take control of the game in the first half.”
The game was a tale of two halves though, as Cal Poly came out on a mission to be more intense and active, catching Long Beach off guard to start the second frame.
“We just got to sustain who we are and I think we’re getting an identity of who we are, we just got to be consistent with it,” Monson said.
With the 49ers letting off the gas pedal, the Mustangs began gobbling up offensive rebounds and chipping away at the lead. Spearheaded by the heroics of senior point guard Donovan Fields as he sliced his way into the paint and finished multiple contested shots, the crowd was in awe, even though he was wearing green and gold instead of gold and black.
“The first 12 minutes of the game they didn’t have an offensive rebound and to give them 14 offensive rebounds, just too many chances,” Monson said.
Booker put the team on his back, converting three shots in a row and also finding open teammates for timely three pointers and dives in the paint. He finished with 31 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and a perfect 13-for-13 at the free throw line.
The Mustangs were able to cut the lead down to nine points but unable to stop the 49ers from answering back after converting shots of their own, leading to a foul-fest in the final two minutes of the game to keep the clock alive.
“I think we have the ability to beat anybody in this league. I think we’ve shown that throughout the league and I think our guys are building confidence in who we are at the right time,” Monson said. “I like the direction they’re going, not just physically but mentally.”
With the lead secured, Monson subbed Booker out to a standing ovation from the crowd thanks to his high scoring night as the team’s win streak continued.
“The fun thing about this is we’ve won four in a row and we can play better,” Monson said.
Long Beach will host its senior night in the final home game of the season in a 7 p.m. Wednesday matchup against UC Riverside.
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).