Almost midway through regular-season action in the Big West Conference, the Long Beach State men’s basketball team sits tied with Cal Poly for last place.
Unfortunately for the Beach (7-16, 2-5 Big West), being multiple games below .500 has been on par with last season, where it dropped six-straight before ultimately finishing at 8-8 in the conference.
After falling to both UC Riverside and UC Santa Barbara by double-digits, the pressure is on for Long Beach State to pick up its play in the coming weeks to avoid having its first losing Big West campaign since head coach Dan Monson’s debut season for the Beach in 2007-08.
“We had a bad week of really believing that we can win with our defense,” Monson said after the 87-62 defeat to UCSB on Feb. 1. “In the second half of both games, defensively we really broke.”
Although the Beach has shot a combined 35% in the last two games, Monson said his team needs to focus on getting comfortable with winning games on the less glamorous side of the floor.
“It’s hard,” Monson said. “I know human nature is as a basketball player that you get more out of the offensive end. You get more energy when you’re scoring, but for us to win games right now, we’re not at that place offensively to outscore a team like [UCSB] with those veterans.”
On paper, Long Beach has a favorable opponent up next in Cal Poly (5-16, 2-5 Big West).
Through new head coach John Smith’s first seven games leading the Mustangs in the Big West, the team has near, if not conference-worst, per game stats in nearly everything from 3-pointers made (6.3) to assists (8.7). Sophomore guard Junior Ballard is Cal Poly’s lone double-figure scorer (14.1 ppg).
After already matching its two conference wins from last season, however, Cal Poly will be determined to hand the Beach this season’s bottom-of-the-standings finish. The Mustangs have shown the ability to take it to another gear at home with an 18-point blowout over CSUN and an intense last-second overtime win against Cal State Fullerton.
With Wednesday’s game set up to be a battle of two teams who struggle to score, the Beach will likely need to buy into Monson’s defense-first mindset to get back on track.
“There’s a lot of ways to win basketball games,” Monson said. “We can still win games as our offense gets in sync and these guys start trusting each other.”
Long Beach will play Cal Poly at the Mott Athletics Center Wednesday, Feb. 5, at 7 p.m.