Justin Bibbins weaves through defenders on a fastbreak.
Men’s basketball flashes quick pace is key in debut game
Words and Photos By Alejandro Ramos Editor-in-Chief
Long Beach State has a rich history of success in basketball. The program has produced several noteworthy teams with incredible players throughout the decades. Just last year, both the men’s and women’s teams racked up the wins in the regular season and made appearances in the Big West and National Invitational Tournaments.
And if that’s not enough to convince you, then how does a blowout win in the first game of the year sound? Because that’s exactly what the Long Beach State men’s basketball team did in their 115-58 win over Caltech during the annual Homecoming game on November 5, 2016.
The game was competitive through the first eight minutes of the first half, and then it wasn’t. Long Beach State went on a 9-0 run over a three minute stretch to make the score to 27-16. Despite their best efforts, Caltech just couldn’t keep up after that. Long Beach State overwhelmed their opponents on both ends of the floor, forcing 23 turnovers and converting those opportunities into points. The first half ended with the squad in black and gold in the lead with a score of 59-29.
The second half was even less competitive. The Beach broken open the steady pace of the game and blitzed the Beavers. Coach Monson’s hockey style substitutions kept players vigilant on the floor. Whenever certain players performed poorly in certain facets of the game, such as failing to get a defensive stop or giving up offensive rebounds, Monson yanked them out of the contest for a few minutes. This strict tactic kept the team focused despite lead and eventually led to the final score of 115-58.
It goes without saying that returning players had good games. Junior forward Gabe Levin marauded the paint offensively, scoring 19 points on just 11 field goal attempts while also grabbing four offensive rebounds. Sophomore guard Noah Blackwell spread the ball by shooting from the perimeter. Blackwell tallied 16 points off the bench on 80% from the three point line. Junior guard and floor general Justin Bibbins found the open man consistently on fastbreak possessions.
Loren Jackson cuts off a Cal Tech player on the pass.
Let’s not forget about the freshmen, who got plenty of time to show us their skills while the starters sat. Loren Jackson, Bibbins’ 5’8” doppelganger, racked up 10 of the team’s 26 assists while outrunning and out jumping players much bigger and taller than him.
And then there was junior forward Evan Payne, who finally played his first game for Long Beach State after sitting out last season as a transfer. After struggling early, especially on defense, Payne found his footing and managed to put up 14 points. It was only a glimpse of what the Loyola Marymount transfer is capable of. Payne is a dynamic scorer and will only continue to flash his skills once he gets his rhythm back. He is a perfect for this lightning fast system that Monson uses.
Despite the dominant performance, coach Monson and the players recognize there’s room for improvement. Monson repeatedly talked about defense, stating that it would be pivotal if they wanted to be successful later in the season and in the postseason. Blackwell backed up the coach by admitting that there were times when he and his teammates were out of position on defense. The result of the game was positive but it was against a university more well-known for its exploits in outer space than basketball spacing.
To say that Caltech didn’t try to keep up would just be messed up. If anything, praise should be given to the Long Beach State squad for taking an exhibition game seriously. They played at a fast pace offensively while maintaining their composure on defense. The remainder of the schedule is lot tougher and this kind of win is likely not going to happen again. Even so, it was a good win and a great way to jumpstart the year for a LBSU ready to stun the best in college basketball.
The next game for men’s basketball is against CSULA on November 11th at 7pm in the Pyramid.
Noah Blackwell focuses on the easy bucket.