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Long Beach’s defensive identity has slipped through the cracks

Ever since Bobby Braswell was hired as an assistant coach, the team has put an emphasis on defense. Overall the team has held all opponents to an average of 77.6 points a game, so why did the team take a huge dip in the last four weeks?

Long Beach has given up an average of 86 points in its last three Big West conference games.

This comes after the 49ers have held opposing teams to 73 points a game in its first two conference games.

Redshirt senior center Temidayo Yussuf’s absence from the court may be a part of the team’s recent lapse. The 6-foot-7, 265 pound senior isn’t the 49ers’ best defender, but his presence in the post makes a difference on opposing slashers who attack the rim. Yussuf is the 49ers’ scariest sight down low, intimidating opponents with his strong frame. Over the last three games, Long Beach has given up 50, 40 and 42 points in the paint to Fullerton, Northridge and Santa Barbara respectively.

The 49ers’ defensive presence in the paint has took a hit since Yussuf has been suffering from knee soreness since Dec. 29. Senior center Mason Riggins hasn’t been able to play that part, and senior forward KJ Byers isn’t big enough to guard true centers. Long Beach has been exposed in the pick and roll, with Riggins not being able to pick up the ball handler and Byers not big enough to contain the roll man. Byers has brought good energy, but his blocks in the interior post only come when he rotates as the help man on defense.

Since Yussuf has been out, Long Beach has clearly tried out-scoring its opponents. The 49ers have relied on senior guard Deishaun Booker to put up 25 or more points a game to keep them afloat. Long Beach gave up 92 points in overtime against Fullerton and stopped playing defense, focusing on solely t scoring. A few defensive plays could have gotten Long Beach the win at home.

It doesn’t look like Yussuf will be coming back anytime soon, so the 49ers will have to adjust their defensive game plan to go on a run in Big West conference play and turn their season around.

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