For the sixth time in program history, the Long Beach State men’s basketball team has been named champions of the Big West Conference.
After dealing with a season riddled with adversity, LBSU finished the year with an overall record of 18-11 and a conference record of 12-3 after a senior night overtime victory against UC Riverside 73-72.
This year, LBSU did not start the season ideally as the team was 3-7 before conference play began and many fans were calling for head coach Dan Monson to be fired early on in the season.
To add to the team’s losing streaks, LBSU had six games canceled due to COVID-19. When they came back to play again, The Beach started the second half of the season 1-2 as they lost two straight to UCLA and Hawaii.
On Jan. 13, LBSU found the spark that they needed as they started an 11 game win streak with a victory against UC Santa Barbara.
These 11 games were a crucial part of The Beach’s season with a make-or-break situation. During the winning streak, LBSU had some positive moments and negatives.
On Feb. 8 in a game against CSUF, Monson earned his 400th career win as an NCAA head coach. In their next game, LBSU lost senior forward Joe Hampton for the rest of the season due to a wrist injury in a victory against Hawaii.
After LBSU lost Hampton, injuries started to pile up for the team while in a close race for first place in the Big West against Cal State Fullerton.
LBSU faced another challenge just after their 11 game win streak came to an end against UC Santa Barbara. The Beach played UC San Diego in a game that featured only eight active players on the roster.
The Beach and UCSD were in a close matchup as they ended the first half on the losing side 57-55. However, LBSU retaliated against UCSD as the team went on a 12-0 run to regain the lead and win the game 103-87.
As the season came to an end last night against UC Riverside, Monson compared this season to a Hollywood movie.
“I don’t think you could script it better,” Monson said after the UC Riverside game. “It’s just gratifying that because they hung in there so much, they’re able to taste a championship.”
The last time The Beach won the Big West championship was in 2012 when Monson was selected as the Big West “Coach of the Year.”
On March 7, Monson reclaimed the top of the Big West and is once again coach of the year for the fourth time in his career.
Monson believes that this year’s team is a team that can win the Big West championship as the level of play has improved for The Beach.
“We’ve proven for two months, that there’s nobody honestly we can’t beat if we play our way, we beat every team in this league and beat some of them twice,” Monson said. “We’ve got to go in there with that, with that vibe, that swagger, and yet understand that if we don’t play our game, any of them can beat us.”
A big reason for the success of The Beach this year was from Big West player of the year, Colin Slater. Slater led the conference in three-pointers as the senior put up 63.
Right behind him in the three-point shot category was freshman defensive player of the year Jadon Jones, who had a total of 58 in regular-season play.
Behind Slater helping him was first-team, Big West player Joel Murray led the conference with 471 points and 124 free throws.
Murray finished the year in second for points averaged per game with 16.2, just behind CSUF’s E.J. Anosike who averaged 16.3 points per game.
Another Freshman who was an absolute standout for The Beach was freshman of the year candidate Aboubacar Traore.
Traore led The Big West in rebounds with a total of 239. He finished second in the conference in blocks with 41 total. Jones finished the year right behind Traore with 27 this year.
As the regular season comes to an end, The Beach is now in control of their own destiny as they enter the Big West tournament on March 8 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas Nevada.
The Beach will enter the tournament as the No. 1 seed and face the winner of the No. 9 vs. No. 8 seed game between CSU Bakersfield and CSU Northridge.
If The Beach wins the tournament, they will have the opportunity to play in the NCAA March Madness tournament which starts on March 15.
If the team gets eliminated from the tournament, The Beach is still guaranteed a spot to play in the NIT tournament starting March 15.
The Big West Tournament will take place on March 8 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.