Dropping to 0-13 when its opponents score more than 70 points, the Long Beach State men’s basketball team left a lot to be desired in the second half of an 87-62 loss to UCSB at the Walter Pyramid Saturday.
UC Santa Barbara (14-8, 3-4 Big West) avenged its January home loss to the Beach in resounding fashion, hitting seven of its first 10 shots to start the second half, connecting at a 58.6% clip the rest of the way.
After hanging around for most of the game with its defense initially, foul trouble and offensive frustrations appeared to mount for the Beach (7-16, 2-5 Big West) late as the Gauchos made a statement 13-2 run to close.
“Defensively, I thought on the perimeter, we were solid all game,” Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson said. “That’s so disappointing that we caved in at the end. That was not a 25-point game and yet, we’re a team right now that’s reeling a little bit and it showed. We lost a lot of confidence when we got down. With eight to 10 minutes to go, all we needed was three stops and a couple buckets and it’s a different game. Instead, we went down like we did on Thursday and let them score five out of six times.”
Limited in his return last time out against the Beach, senior guard Max Heidegger was one rebound shy of a triple-double for the Gauchos, tallying up 14 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds. Sophomore forward Amadou Sow recorded a double-double with 15 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
With Long Beach trailing by five to begin the second half, UCSB graduate forward Matt Freeman went ballistic, nailing his first four jumpers of the period. Torching the nets and his previous scoring average coming in (9.3 ppg), the New Zealand big man finished with 24 points (9-11 FG, 6-7 3PM) in 19 minutes.
“[Freeman] is a kid who’s a rhythm shooter. He’s really been struggling from three,” Monson said. “I know people won’t believe me when you see him today, but as soon as we made a mistake on the first one and he got open and made a rhythm three, now it’s a whole different player out there. I thought he was the difference in breaking that thing open.”
Despite shooting only 32% in the first half and ultimately losing the rebounding and assists battles, Long Beach fought early on. Sophomore guard Chance Hunter got off to a hot start and put up 19 points, eight rebounds and three 3-pointers.
Junior forward Jordan Roberts easily had his best game of the season with 18 points (8-9 FTM), seven rebounds and some stellar passes off the bench, reminiscent of his play last spring.
“I definitely came with a different mentality [tonight] because I know my coaches and my teammates,” Roberts said, “they trust in me as a three-year player now. I feel like I had to give more in order for us to succeed. I just want everybody to get involved so then we fall in a flow.”
Although the Beach’s offense has shown it’s still a ways away from being a finished product, Monson said he feels the team’s margin for error is rightfully small but should’ve been better.
“We’re a fragile team right now,” Monson said. “We broke for the first time in league. That’s happened to us. We’re a young team. That’s understandable in the preseason with some of the teams we’ve played, but for us to break in that second half like that, I’ve got to, as a coach, take responsibility for that. We’ve got to get ourselves back, as I say, chained up and back together.”
Long Beach State will continue conference play in a visit against Cal Poly Wednesday, Feb. 5, at 7 p.m.