Men's Basketball, Men's Sports, Sports

Triumphant comeback sparks victory for The Beach at UC Riverside

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Long Beach State men’s basketball traveled down to Riverside on Saturday afternoon looking to bounce back from a lackluster home loss to rival UC Irvine. They would do so by escaping with a 65-53 victory with the final score being a bit deceiving.

The Beach would not grab their first lead of the day until the six-minute mark in the second half, dominating the final ten minutes and coming away with a double-digit win in a game they trailed by as much as 15.

The opening half for LBSU looked very similar to Thursday’s defeat with The Beach coming out of the gates slow. UC Riverside would capitalize and jump out to an early 15-3 lead with LBSU going 1-12 (8%) from the field to start.

“I thought we really had a hangover from that game and lost a lot of confidence offensively,” head coach Dan Monson said. “We got outrebounded by ten… they were tougher and more aggressive than us in the first half.”

Long Beach State was able to halt the Highlanders’ offense, stringing together multiple stops on the defensive end en route to their own 12-2 run to reinsert themselves back in the contest.

UCR would have a response going on a 10-0 run led by redshirt freshman guard Barrington Hargress on his way to a game-high 16 points. The Highlanders would connect on seven first-half triples to go into the break with a 13-point advantage.

“I challenged our guys in the second half, and it was really gratifying to see what kind of character they have. They were able to get themselves together and have by far our best defensive half of the season,” Monson said.

Midway through the second half with UCR still much in control, the bench of The Beach was able to come in and electrify a team that had been quiet up to that point. Redshirt freshman guard Jason Hart Jr. and senior forward Amari Stroud led that charge.

Hart Jr. showed his energy and versatility on the defensive end by drawing a charge and coming away with a steal that jump-started Long Beach State’s offense as the streakiness trend of both teams would continue.

This time LBSU put together a 13-3 run to cut the deficit to just three points.

“This is a representation of just never giving up ever. Being here for two years and finally getting a real chance to help this team win means all the world to me,” Hart Jr. said.

A three-pointer by the team’s leading scorer senior guard Marcus Tsohonis would tie the game at 47 and from that point forward The Beach would go on to outscore UCR 18-6.

The biggest catalyst in Long Beach State’s come-from-behind second-half surge would be sophomore guard A.J. George as he caught fire from the field to close out the game with 12 of his 14 points in the final frame, including a tough and-1 that ignited the LBSU bench and fans in attendance.

“Going into the second half, I wasn’t even thinking about my offense, we were down by a lot and I was just trying to get the score up. All I needed to see was one shot go in,” George said.

Even in late January, you could feel LBSU’s sense of urgency to avoid dropping below .500 in Big West play and remain in contention for the regular season title. The win improves The Beach’s record to 5-4 and 13-8 overall, as they sweep the season series with the Highlanders.

The road trip will continue on Thursday as they make the trip up to Bakersfield, hoping to build off the momentum of a great all-around team performance.

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