Long Beach State came out firing on all cylinders Saturday night as it took on its division foe UC Santa Barbara, and came out with a win 62-53.
It seemed like every 50-50 loose ball in the first quarter was conveniently bouncing in the right direction for the 49ers (8-18, 5-8 Big West) against the Gauchos (6-20, 3-10 Big West) as they closed out the frame 16-6 with plenty of momentum in their favor.
Led by freshmen reserve guard Kianna Hamilton-Fisher, the 49ers began cranking up the heat with their vaunted full court pressure that turns into a 2-3 zone in the half court, forcing turnovers and bad decisions from the Gauchos left and right.
“When Kianna [Hamilton-Fisher] is playing with confidence, she can really be impactful. She defends, she just does a lot of different things, the intangible things,” said head coach Jeff Cammon. “She’s everywhere, you can play her at different positions, she’s just a talented kid that brings a lot to the table.
The Gauchos were able to chip away at the lead during the second quarter, with some timely three pointers falling for them, to end the quarter with the 49ers still ahead 28-26.
The game started to get chippy in the third quarter, as sophomore lead guard Shanaijah Davison and sophomore guard Bri Anugwom for the Gauchos were going at it as both teams were pushing the ball hard in transition.
“We scored in transition and in half court, and we had balanced scoring. So when we can do that … we‘ll put ourselves in position to win,” Cammon said.
The 49ers got in a bit of a funk after this, as they botched two straight inbounds plays, allowing UCSB to tie the ball game up at 41 a piece to end third quarter.
The Gauchos entered the fourth quarter with a new-found sense of urgency, as junior guard Tal Sahar connected on a huge three pointer to take the lead, while pouring in 7 points in the final frame.
After a couple of nice defensive plays by the 49ers and a miraculous bounce from a clutch block by the Gauchos led to a three pointer by Hamilton-Fisher in the corner, the 49ers began to pull away with only a few minutes left.
“We’re defending at a high level and I think we can get better, but we have to be able to score,” Cammon said “Tonight, being able to get in transition and get easy buckets really allowed us to score the ball more.”
After taking a gut punch like that, the Gauchos were unable to find a rhythm with 2 minutes left, and the 49ers faces lit up with excitement when the buzzer sounded and the foul fest had ended.
The 49ers play 7 p.m. Thursday against UC Davis at the Walter Pyramid.