In a chippy game that saw a technical foul, chair punches, clipboard floor-slamming and multiple official reviews late, the Long Beach State men’s basketball team secured its second win against Hawai’i 64-60.
Holding the Rainbow Warriors (15-11, 6-6 Big West) to 33% shooting (20-60 FG, 7-28 3PT) Saturday, the Beach (10-18, 5-7 Big West) moved to 5-0 in Big West play when keeping opponents under 65 points. Knocking down every other three they looked at (7-14 3PT), Long Beach led comfortably for the majority of the game in what was one of its finest offensive first halves of the season.
Being ahead by as much as 16 with under 10 minutes left in the game, however, the Beach’s lead quickly fizzled down the stretch with 11 turnovers as Hawai’i amped up its defensive intensity to the emotion of its well-traveled fans.
Steady defense, and a team season-high rebounding effort in which seven Long Beach players tallied at least four rebounds, held Hawai’i from coming within four points.
“We haven’t been in that situation,” Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson said. “Even at home, except for the DII games, unfortunately, we haven’t had a [situation] where we’ve had opportunities to really step on somebody and take them out. We didn’t do well with that today, but if that’s your only negative, that you didn’t knock somebody out and you had to settle for a 12 round-split decision, we’ll take it.”
Commending the toughness, attitude and effort of the team, Monson said that their ability to defend the whole game countered not being perfect.
“We did a lot of good things offensively in the first 32 minutes,” Monson said, “but the best thing is when things weren’t going good the first 32 minutes on the offensive end, when we missed free throws … at Irvine, it was the end of the world. Today, they just got back and defended because that’s who we gotta be.”
Tacking on another pair of blocks to go with 10 points and six rebounds, freshman center Joshua Morgan joined the Beach’s career blocks list, tying for ninth all-time with 67 rejections.
Sophomore guard Michael Carter III spearheaded Long Beach’s offense once again, scoring a team-high 15 points with two 3-pointers, as well as three assists and four rebounds. Carter III re-entered the starting lineup alongside junior forward Jordan Roberts, who pulled in a team-high seven rebounds, in addition to being an off-ball pest disrupting Hawai’i’s passing lanes.
Limited due to injuries suffered in the previous loss at UC Irvine, sophomore guard Chance Hunter (ankle) and freshman forward Romelle Mansel (foot) came off the bench after being game-time decisions prior to tipoff.
“Seeing that we had an injury with Romelle Mansel,” Roberts said, “I felt like I had to be the next man up, pick up the slack for the rebounds for him, and bring a defensive mentality to the lineup.”
Being a one-man-show for the Rainbow Warriors in 38 minutes of play, senior guard Eddie Stansberry knocked down five three-pointers en route to 19 points (6-14 FG, 5-13 3PT), four rebounds and two steals.
“We have the potential to be a very great defensive team,” junior guard Drew Cobb said, “and I think going into the year, we knew that and wanted that to be our identity.”
Moving to 11-2 all-time at home against the Rainbow Warriors, the Beach completed the season sweep for the first time since the 2015-16 season.
“Hawai’i has the best homecourt advantage in the league,” Monson said. “Winning at their place was special for our guys and the way we did it. We did it with our defense, we did it staying together through a lot of frustration. Our guys are in a good place right now. They’ve been in a good place individually, mentally and competitive-wise all year, but they really banded up together here the last couple weeks and really are relying on each other a lot.”
Long Beach State will continue its conference homestand against CSUN Wednesday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m. at the Walter Pyramid.