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Long Beach looks to pull ahead in Big West standings

Coming off a 92-90 loss in overtime to Fullerton, Long Beach (2-1) is looking to bounce back against Northridge.

In the Big West media preseason rankings poll, Cal State Northridge was picked to finish last in conference play. The Matadors have proven to be formidable opponents, going 8-12 in the preseason and starting Big West play 2-2.

Northridge’s two conference wins came against weaker opponents, but it has put up a good fight against stronger  in the past. The Matadors have two scorers in sophomore guard Terrell Gomez and redshirt freshman forward Lamine Diane, who are putting up 26.5 and 22.5 points a game in their last four games. Long Beach will have to contain Northridge’s leading scorers to escape the Matadome with a win.

Long Beach has been missing a big presence in redshirt senior Temidayo Yussuf, but has utilized other players to earn its two conference wins so far. Seniors Deishuan Booker, KJ Byers and Mason Riggins have all stepped up to fill the hole that has been missing.

“I feel confident. We’re playing really well right now, so there’s nothing to be down on,” Booker said. “Where we make mistakes, we’re just going to learn from them.”

Fortunately for the 49ers, Booker has been able to sustain his high scoring, averaging 30 points per game in his last four. Northridge is a young, inexperienced team, so it will be up to Booker and company to sustain a strong effort on both sides of the ball in order to pick up the 49ers’ third Big West win.

Long Beach is beginning to form an identity that involves attacking the rim to draw fouls, partly due to Booker’s near 90 percent free throw shooting. The team is also taking more perimeter shots with players such as sophomore guard Edon Maxhuni and redshirt senior Bryan Alberts who have improved their shooting.

Yussuf remains day-to-day with his knee soreness, while junior guard Ron Freeman continues to be sidelined for undisclosed reasons.

Long Beach follows up Wednesday’s road game against Northridge with a 7 p.m. Saturday home game against UC Santa Barbara.

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