The Anteaters’ kryptonite continues to be the Long Beach State men’s basketball team as the Beach ended its two-game skid in a bounce-back win over UC Irvine 63-56.
Handing UCI (11-9, 3-1 Big West) its first conference road loss in over two years and first Big West loss since the Beach defeated them in January 2019, the Beach was able to salvage the final game of its homestand.
Long Beach (7-14, 2-3 Big West) held Irvine’s typically efficient offense to 33.8% shooting from the field, while keeping its league-worst turnovers in check. Additionally, the Beach won the battle on the glass over the Big West’s best rebounding team 39-38.
“This has been a team that’s struggled to figure it out,” Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson said, “especially on the offensive end, but I can’t be anymore happy for them or more proud. Irvine is the goal setter right now in this league.”
Prior to winning this game, the Beach had been the only Big West program to pull within single-digits of the Anteaters during their 19-game conference streak.
“I don’t think there’s any secret [to beating UCI],” Monson said. “Our guys are competitors and they know that they’re a good team, but I do think our league is a lot about matchups. There’s some teams that you match up better with than others. We do have the size to match up with them that some other teams don’t.”
Noting Irvine’s championship confidence and swagger, Monson said Long Beach getting off to its hot start was crucial to winning the game.
The Beach was led throughout the game by junior guard Colin Slater, whose 19 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals steadied the team through each Anteater run.
“All I was focused on was us and what we needed to do defensively,” Slater said. “We knew what we needed to do. We have three goals and we just gotta meet those every game.”
While Long Beach’s energy on defense and attention to the boards helped them get ahead, multiple players stepped up offensively to keep the team afloat for the rest of the way.
Sophomore guard Chance Hunter finished with 11 points and five rebounds. The freshmen starting frontcourt partners, Romelle Mansel and Joshua Morgan, combined for 12 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks, while holding their own against UCI’s bigs—a task that typically requires a double team.
Stealing the spotlight of the Beach’s collective effort however, was sophomore center Trever Irish, who scored a career-high eight points off the bench with an array of floaters and fadeaways.
“From the first man to the last man,” Irish said, “we’re just supporting each other and I felt the support. Drew [Cobb], he said ‘get in the block [and] shoot the ball,’ and they’ve been telling me ‘shoot the ball,’ so I felt like I had the confidence today to shoot because my teammates instilled that in me.”
Long Beach will travel to the SRC Arena to face UC Riverside Thursday, Jan. 30, at 7 p.m.