Ending its five-game losing streak, the Long Beach State men’s basketball team rallied late to fend off Utah Valley University Saturday at the Walter Pyramid 68-65.
With another new starting lineup, multiple-injury scares, defensive lapses and plenty of head-scratching travels, the Beach (4-9) was able to scrape by for its first December win in grind-it-out fashion.
After coming off the bench in the two previous games, sophomore guard Michael Carter III slid back into the starting lineup leading the way for the Beach while putting up 15 points, three 3-pointers, three assists, a steal and a block. Junior guard Colin Slater followed up with 15 points and three 3-pointers of his own.
“It was a much-needed win for us,” head coach Dan Monson said, “For this group, 11 new guys, it’s been a very mentally-trying preseason just trying to keep your confidence and continue to get better.”
Starting the game with small lineups for both sides, it was a fast-paced shootout as threes were jacked up with no hesitation on either end.
About six minutes in, junior guard Drew Cobb made his return from a four-game absence and settled right back into his role off the bench, making an impact with seven rebounds, four points, a steal and a block.
The Beach’s balanced offense fueled its four-point lead at halftime, but had no answers for the Wolverines’ (5-9) junior guards Isaiah White and Brandon Averette, who combined for 28 points of their team’s 31.
“At that point, I took it personally a little bit more because that was my matchup,” Slater said. “I wanted to do a lot less switches so we could ensure that [Averette] didn’t get as groovy as he did in the first half.”
The Beach coasted out a 13-point lead with seven minutes left to play on great execution on both ends, including a poster dunk in transition by junior forward Jordan Roberts.
As emotions ran high, however, the Wolverines roared back with a 12-0 run sparked by open threes to quickly make it a one-possession game with 4:27 left.
Tying the game at 60 with 2:17 left to play, the Wolverines never took back the lead as clutch threes and free throws by Slater and Carter III saved the game for the Beach.
“It’s always important to stay ready no matter what,” Carter III said, “[whether] you come off the bench [or] you start because you never know what’s going to happen during the game. You never when you’re going to be needed. You never know when it’s going to be your turn to take that big shot.”
Long Beach State will travel to Washington to play Seattle University Monday, 3 p.m. at Redhawk Center.