It looked ugly early, but Long Beach State women’s basketball worked its way back into the game to defeat UC Riverside 55-49 at the Big West Tournament quarterfinals Wednesday night in Henderson, Nevada.
“Survive and advance,” head coach Jeff Cammon said. “It wasn’t pretty but we found a way. I think. I don’t think, I know this time of year you have to find a way and our young ladies showed their toughness and character.”
Trailing 41-32 heading into the fourth quarter it was The Beach with its back against the wall after shooting just 34% from the field and allowing UCR to control the glass.
In the fourth quarter, LBSU took over scoring 23 points and going on a 14-0 run that flipped the script with senior guard Courtney Murphy hitting two big threes to push The Beach to a six-point lead that it held on to.
Defensive awareness and drawing fouls was the key to victory for LBSU as the team didn’t score from the field during the final 6:01 of the final quarter. Instead hitting 6/10 free throws to tack onto the score and holding the Highlanders to 33% shooting during that time.
After the first half, it was all UCR who controlled the game through more efficient scoring and was unfortunate to have only built the lead to seven. The Highlanders weren’t hitting from beyond the arc early as they did in the second half which afforded The Beach an opportunity to keep the game tight.
Redshirt senior guard Tori Harris made over 50% of the baskets for LBSU in that first half, before seeing her teammates rally late to assist her performance. The newly named Big West Player of the Year led the team in scoring even after not making a basket from the field in the second half.
“Right now it’s different, we lose and we are going home, that’s my motivation,” Harris said.
The comeback was mounted due to the secondary scoring options for The Beach coming alive, with the team shooting an impressive 52% during the final two quarters.
That final portion of the game was where senior guard Malia Bambrick and redshirt junior guard Kianna Hamilton-Fisher began to chip in, scoring 13 and 11 points respectively.
“It was just like when are we going to turn this around,” Hamilton-Fisher said about her reaction to whether or not the team was ever out of the game.
Up next is the semifinals with The Beach set to face the winner of the Cal State Fullerton and Hawaii game being played right after the end of Wednesday night’s win for LBSU. With No. 1 seed UC Irvine being knocked out, The Beach is now the highest seed remaining at The Big West Tournament.