ANAHEIM — With slow starts in both halves, the Long Beach State men’s basketball team finished in fourth place after a 95-79 loss to the University of Pennsylvania, Sunday.
The Quakers (3-5) knocked down 15 of 36 threes in a well-rounded effort, making the Beach’s defensive miscues pay from top-to-bottom with 27 assisted baskets and 34 points off the bench.
“If you would have told me when the week started that we were going to have a Big East win and play the way we did,” head coach Dan Monson said, “I think I would take it. That being said, when you get into these games against these good opponents it’s hard to say that to yourself, but I think this team is growing and has made a great jump offensively in the last week.”
Despite having less shot attempts than usual while attracting most of Long Beach’s (3-6) attention in the paint all game, Penn’s leading scorer senior forward AJ Brodeur flirted with a 5×5 in the form of 11 points, nine assists, five rebounds, four steals and three blocks.
Freshman guard Max Martz was the main beneficiary of the Quakers’ inside-out offense, breaking loose for a career-high 17 points and five threes off of the bench.
The Beach was prone to lapses leading to poor execution throughout the game, showing flashes of their high-paced attack, but ultimately falling behind Penn’s offensive barrage of spaced perimeter scoring.
Sophomore guard Chance Hunter played his best first half of the season, scoring 21 of his 23 points in the opening frame. Junior guard Colin Slater was excellent overall, finishing with 18 points (8-11 FG, 2-2 3PT), four rebounds and three assists.
Overcoming his early struggles to get to his spots against the Quakers, freshman center Joshua Morgan continued his stellar play at the Anaheim Arena, putting up 15 points, seven rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block.
The Beach fought well to keep it close in the first half as Hunter and Slater took turns scoring efficiently, combining for 32 of the team’s 43 points.
Coming out of the halftime break tied at 43, Penn quickly looked like the more experienced team, being more aggressive on both ends to spur a 7-0 run.
“That 7-0 start to start the second half really shows the mental state of their team versus ours right now,” Monson said. “We just thought we were going to continue the same way and they were like, ‘No, that’s not going to be it.’ … Of the nine games we’ve played, I think we’ve had to call a timeout four or five times in the first two minutes of the second half just to get [our guys] back.”
The Beach were unable to recover the rest of the way as Quaker freshman guard Jordan Dingle caught fire with 19 points in the second half.
Long Beach will not be returning to the Wooden Legacy Tournament next season after ESPN Events announced the format will be changing to a two-day, four-school bracket featuring Georgetown, Kansas, UCLA and Virginia.
“I’m bummed, I love these tournaments,” Monson said. “It’s just such a great opportunity for mid-majors to play people on a neutral court and see where your guys truly stack up.”
Long Beach State returns to the Walter Pyramid Saturday Dec. 7 to host the University of the Pacific at 4 p.m.