It was a fun day for everyone in the Walter Pyramid, as the crowd chanted and yelled all night for a Cal State Dominguez Hills player to miss consecutive free throws in order to win free Chick-Fil-A after the game. The vocal efforts of the crowd proved to be successful, as the Toros finally missed two straight free throws late in the second half.
In front of a rowdy, sellout crowd at the annual Homecoming game, the Long Beach State men’s basketball team got off to a slow start, going back and forth in the first half with the Toros.
The second half proved to be a different story, as the 49ers came out with an 87-71 win in front of the announced crowd of 4,227.
“It was a great game for us, the crowd was awesome for homecoming,” Long Beach head coach Dan Monson said. “It was a fun day for our guys.”
Long Beach got off to a hot start Saturday, shooting 57 percent on field goals within the first 10 minutes of the first half. The Toros were on fire coming out of the gates, shooting 72 percent behind three three-pointers from senior guard Matt Hayes.
With 9:07 remaining in the first half, the Toros took their first lead of the game. The 49ers tried a full-court press defense for a few minutes, but weren’t successful as they started to give up easier shots.
Long Beach finally started to find its groove with eight minutes left with a three-pointer from sophomore guard Jordan Griffin, sparking a 7-0 run that would give the team a 52-36 lead at halftime.
Junior point guard Deishuan Booker paved the way in the first half for the 49ers, going 10-of-11 from the free throw line along with only two field goals.
“I wanted to be a little more aggressive,” Booker said. “It’s definitely a lot different than [junior college] but I feel like the environment helped us get going, so I liked it a lot.”
In the second half, Long Beach State held a double-digit lead for a majority of the time and never looked back. After an and-one play by junior forward KJ Byers with 8:46 left in the game, the 49ers maintained a 10-point lead or more for the rest of the way.
Senior forward Gabe Levin led the team in scoring with 19 points and eight rebounds, while Booker had an impressive game with 18 points and six assists. All 11 players who saw action in the game scored at least two points.
“Gabe is feeling good, he’s healthy and he’s going to be a hard matchup for anybody in the country,” Monson said. “This is his fifth year in college and he plays like a man. We’ve got to get him the ball in good situations.”
Freshman forward Milos Apic, who Monson announced will be redshirting for the rest of the season, scored two points and totaled three rebounds in 13 minutes of action.
The 49ers shot an impressive 50 percent from the field and 87.9 percent from the free throw line.
After the game, Monson gave an update on injured players junior forward Temidayo Yussuf and freshman guard Jordan Roberts. Yussuf has been cleared for non-contact drills and will continue to recover for the next two weeks.
Monson listed his knee at 67 percent healthy and the team will wait patiently for a full recovery.
The freshman, who is recovering from a broken toe, is set to return sometime in the upcoming week after recently getting the boot on his foot removed.
Next up for Long Beach is a road matchup at 8 p.m. on Friday at the University of San Francisco.