After being tied 29-29 at the half, the Long Beach State men’s basketball team was unable to keep its momentum going as UC Riverside poured in 48 second-half points en route to a 77-69 loss at the SRC Arena.
Four Highlanders finished in double-figures while the team shot 28-for-56 on 16 assists. In addition to dominating the rebound battle 39-29, UCR lit up the Beach’s oft-elite three-point defense for 11 makes from downtown.
Down by its largest deficit in the game of 13 with a minute-and-thirty left to play however, the Beach made a quick 9-0 run to cut it down to four. A narrowly missed point-blank floater by sophomore guard Chance Hunter sealed Long Beach’s fate for the night.
“The guys showed some fight towards the end,” Long Beach State assistant coach Senque Carey said, “but we never should’ve been in that situation.”
Citing slow starts on both ends and a blown scouting assignment to keep Riverside below six made threes, Carey said the Beach lost its mental toughness defensively for a stretch in the second half.
“Even in the first half,” Carey said, “I felt [UCR] had open looks but just missed. In the second half, they did a great job of penetrating, sucking us in and really [making] us pay for our mistakes.”
In the team’s first game in eight days, Hunter carried the Beach offensively through cold streaks, ending for a game-high 20 points. The southpaw also clocked in a team-high eight rebounds and three three-pointers.
Big West blocks leader Joshua Morgan rejected four more shots to go with eight points. The freshman center also had a team-high three assists.
“We need to all be brothers banded together on that defensive end,” Carey said. “Whatever happens on this offensive end can happen, but we got enough on the defensive end to win this league.”
Eclipsing his 6.8 ppg scoring average entering the game, redshirt junior guard Dominick Pickett led the Highlanders with 20 points, four threes and six rebounds off the bench. The second active career scoring leader in the Big West, senior guard Dikymbe Martin, steadied UCR’s offense as well with 14 points and two threes of his own.
“This generation of basketball players are so built on how many points they scored or how many shots they got,” Carey said. “I wanna give hats off to Dikymbe Martin because he’s a guy that’s a volume shooter. He wants to win so now, all of sudden, he’s on a winning team and he’s taking quality shots instead of volume shots.”
The Beach will return to the Walter Pyramid to host UC Santa Barbara Saturday, Feb. 1, at 4 p.m.