The Long Beach State men’s basketball team is stuck in a rut. Five straight losses in Big West play have pushed the 49ers to seventh in the standings. After starting out with a home win over UC Davis and an upset win over UC Irvine on the road, Long Beach (8-15, 2-5 Big West) is in need of renewed energy, a new mindset and a fresh start to finish conference play on a higher note.
Following a short practice Tuesday, players and coaches played against each other in a game of wiffle ball at half court inside the Walter Pyramid. Surprisingly, the coaches and team managers defeated the players 10-8. Sophomore guard Jordan Roberts and walk-on freshman center Jeffrey Yan both struck out in crucial moments.
Tuesday’s practice had more to it than just wiffle ball, however. Head coach Dan Monson saw it as an opportunity change the flow of practice for a short time.
“I think sometimes you just need to get away from basketball and just be a family,” Monson said. “We’ve just got to clear our minds and make sure that everybody is in a good place.”
Long Beach is in the middle of an eight-week stretch with two Big West games per week, and Monson said the constant grind of games and practices takes a toll on the team.
Senior forward and first baseman KJ Byers enjoyed the wiffle ball game, playing with the same amount of energy he brings to the team during games.
“It builds a lot of chemistry,” Byers said. “On and off the court we hang out, we throw gatherings, we do a lot, so it can translate. It sucks because we’re right there [with winning games], we’ve just got to keep pushing to get better every day.”
Long Beach hosts Hawaii Thursday in desperate need of a win. The 49ers fell 74-57 to the Rainbow Warriors in Hawaii Jan. 31. Monson attributes a lack of post defense and ball screen defense to the 49ers loss. Poor shooting by Long Beach also led to the loss as the team shot 38.5 percent from the field and 46 percent from the free-throw line.
“Their point guards are really tough to corral and got us into a lot of two-on-one situations in the paint,” Monson said. “Our ball screen defense and keeping the ball out of the paint will be two things that will be more of a paramount for us this week.”