In a game that saw seven lead changes, 14 ties and an extra frame of overtime, the Long Beach State men’s basketball team prevailed over UC Riverside 65-63 to string together back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
Moving to 4-1 when holding Big West opponents below 70 points this season, the Beach’s (9-17, 4-6 Big West) defense dictated the game once again, scoring 23 points off of 20 Highlander turnovers.
Leading by two with 20 seconds left, the Beach’s missed free throw on the front end of a 1-and-1 opened the door for UC Riverside (14-13, 4-7 Big West) to send the game into overtime with a last-second layup.
Sophomore guard Michael Carter III came through with the game-winning play once again, knocking down a left-wing fadeaway jumper to lift Long Beach with two seconds left.
“Mike’s just got that ‘It’ factor at the end of games,” Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson said. “Everybody knew we were going to put the ball in his hands. He’s got a finger that dislocated at Hawai’i and has the ball at the end of [that] game and scores the last three points. It popped back out at the end of regulation [tonight]. He was out a couple [of] minutes, we were down and he comes back and pops it back in and scored the last three points again.”
Carter III finished with 12 points and four assists off the bench in 26 minutes.
“My mindset is just to get my job done,” Carter III said. “On our team, we all have our jobs that we do and we make sure we get them done. Whenever my time comes for a last-second play or anything, I just make sure I’m always ready to help my team. Whether it’s off a shot, free throw, whether I need to get an assist, a stop, whatever we need to win in that moment I’m gonna do.”
Junior guard Colin Slater had a nice bounce-back effort with 11 points, two 3-pointers, four steals and several key charges drawn. In a complete two-way effort, freshman center Joshua Morgan was nearly automatic from mid-range to lead the Beach with a career-high 17 points, along with four blocks and eight rebounds.
“The coaches have been challenging me for a while now, if they’re sagging off me just to shoot the mid-range [shot],” Morgan said. “I was a little bit hesitant earlier in the season, but now I’m just accepting it and so far the results have been pretty positive.”
UCR senior guard Dikymbe Martin led all scorers at the half and finished with 14 points and two 3-pointers. Redshirt junior forward Arinze Chidom pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds to double-double with 14 points including three 3-pointers. Sophomore center Callum McRae tallied eight points, seven rebounds, three assists and four blocks.
“We’ve got some really good individual parts,” Monson said, “but to see them mesh together today in a game where a lot went wrong, there were a lot of places where we could’ve given in. To have the game won in regulation and then let it go to overtime, nobody hung their heads and they just kept fighting together.”
Long Beach State will continue conference play against UC Irvine at the Bren Events Center on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 7 p.m.