It was a frustrating night for the Long Beach State men’s basketball team as it took its first home loss of the season versus the University of the Pacific 65-46.
After scoring the opening basket, the Beach (3-7) trailed the rest of the game as the Tigers (9-3) controlled the pace with their defense-first mindset, forcing Long Beach into nearly as many turnovers (15) as made field goals (17).
Junior guard Colin Slater was a one-man-show for the Beach, finishing as its lone player in double-figures with 20 points, including two of the team’s three 3-pointers in 37 minutes.
“You gotta give Pacific a lot of credit defensively,” head coach Dan Monson said. “They caused us to play poorly, but the disappointing part was our fight and our trust. We just didn’t really compete very well through adversity. This team is really struggling with when things go bad, trusting their teammates, trusting the scout, or trusting what we’re doing.”
Despite returning to the Walter Pyramid for the first time since 2012, the Tigers looked like the more comfortable and energetic team from tip-off, hustling first to loose balls, communicating on defense and playing with a fiery intensity to quiet the Long Beach crowd.
Aside from Slater’s scoring, the Beach had no answer for Pacific graduate transfer guard Gary Chivichyan and junior forward Jeremiah Bailey, whose three-pointers off of the bench blew the game open late in the physical first half.
“Our practice wasn’t the best the past couple of days,” freshman center Joshua Morgan said. “I would say we weren’t locked in completely and that can’t happen if we’re going into a game, especially a game like this, where they’re going to challenge us mentally and physically.”
After taking 33-22 advantage at halftime, the Tigers’ lead never fell to less than eight as their leading scorer, senior guard Jahlil Tripp, broke loose to finish with 15 points, eight rebounds and three steals.
The Beach’s offensive woes continued in the second half as it committed more turnovers (10) over the final 20 minutes than shots made (8-25 FG).
On a night littered with blown Long Beach layups and air-balled jumpers, sophomore guard Michael Carter III finished with nine points on three-for-12 shooting, while sophomore guard Chance Hunter remained scoreless going zero-for-six.
“[Pacific has] done that to everybody’s leading scorers,” Monson said. “That’s what they do, and we just didn’t handle it well. [Hunter] didn’t handle it well, I don’t think Michael Carter [III] did. Those are two really talented players, but they got frustrated today.”
As the team’s frustrations on the offensive end mounted, Pacific kept its foot on the gas pedal, dissecting the Beach’s zone defense to stretch out its largest lead of the game, 63-39 with 4:38 left.
“In a game like that, you can’t be emotional,” Monson said. “You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Pacific makes you uncomfortable, they do a great job of that, and we weren’t comfortable when we got there. We were not prepared to win a 56-55 ball game, which was going to have to happen today for us to win.”
Long Beach State will head to the Galen Center to face USC Sunday, Dec. 15 at 3:30 p.m.