Long Beach State men’s basketball lost their home opener to Utah Valley 84-78 Wednesday night at the Walter Pyramid.
UVU set the tone early by playing great half-court defense and outrebounding the Beach 6-1 in the opening minutes.
“Coming off of UCLA an emotional game, we didn’t play with the emotion we needed to,” head coach Dan Monson said. “Physically, we didn’t stand up to their physicality, to get outrebounded by 17, you know it’s going to be hard to win.”
Highly-touted senior Joe Hampton made his presence known early, scoring five consecutive points to help The Beach take the lead 15-14. Hampton, who sat out the loss to UCLA with an ankle injury, was a game-time decision for tonight’s contest.
UVU dominated the boards on both ends of the court; they had 19 offensive rebounds, leading to second and third chances to put up shots. UVU junior guard Conor Harding led all scorers with 16 points in the first half.
Both teams got chippy with each other after UVU sophomore Tim Ceaser blocked LBSU’s Joel Murray’s layup forward to end the half. The referees stepped in before anything escalated.
The Beach came out firing after halftime, led by senior forward Jordan Roberts, who scored all of the team’s 16 points in the second half.
“I think the atmosphere was really good for us,” Roberts said. “I know a lot of the new guys and the guys that came in last year, they really didn’t have that opportunity to play in front of fans due to COVID.”
Roberts’ hot second half was matched and eclipsed by UVU R-So. Fardaws Aimaq.
Aimaq, the 2020 WAC player and defensive of the year and who also led the nation in rebounding last season, exploded in the second half scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
“The mood of the year is rebounding, rebounding, rebounding,” senior guard Colin Slater said. “We’re going to continue to do great things on the offensive end and we’re gonna clean up things on the defensive end but rebounding is our main focus right now and we will get that straightened out.”
Both teams exchanged big shot after big shot in the game’s closing minutes.
Hampton hit a jumper to put The Beach up by two with less than a minute to go in the game, but UVU drove down and tied the game at 68. CSULB guard Joel Murray missed the potential game-winning shot at the buzzer, forcing the game to overtime.
In overtime, UVU continued to dominate the boards and Blaze Nield hit two big three-pointers to put the game out of reach as the Wolverines won it in overtime 84-78.
Next up, The Beach will play the Missouri State Bears on Nov. 22 at the Pyramid.