Feb. 2, 2013
Long Beach State (13-8, 9-1) avenged its only Big West loss of the season on Saturday as it defeated Cal Poly (9-11, 5-5) in a defensive battle, 50-48. The 49ers extended their home conference win streak to 23 games with the win, and have won every game since the loss in San Luis Obispo on Jan. 3 (eight straight).
Just like on Wednesday night against UCSB, Saturday's game came down to the final seconds of action, with free throws again edging the 49ers into the win column. Down 30-25 at the halftime break, the 49ers came out firing in the second half behind the hot-shooting hand of senior guard James Ennis.
"This was a great win for us," said Head Coach Dan Monson. "Cal Poly is a great team. They beat UCLA earlier this year and are always a tough team for us to play. They are a defensive-minded team and you could see that tonight. They milk the clock and use at least 20 seconds each play and when a team plays like that, it's going to be low-scoring.
"Normally, when you play a team a second time in conference, the scoring goes down and it becomes a defensive battle. That's what happened tonight and I'm very encouraged by this game and our play on defense. We are improving every day, and when you win like this, it's very encouraging."
Ennis opened up the second half by scoring eight straight points for the 49ers to tie the game at 33 all. Long Beach then went into the lead at 35-33, capping off a 10-2 run. Cal Poly would tie the game at 35 all, but the 49ers would push ahead to lead 42-37 after two back-to-back threes by Ennis.
Cal Poly would again answer, tying the game at 46 all with just under three minutes to play. A pull-up jumper by Mike Caffey as the shot clock closed in on zero, pushed LBSU ahead 48-46 with 1:20 to play.
Ennis came up with a big block with 50 seconds to play, putting Long Beach back on offense, but a Caffey jumper failed to go in. With LBSU up 48-46, Cal Poly's Jamal Johnson would head to the free throw line. He missed both and as Ennis grabbed the rebound, he was fouled, sending him to the charity strip. Ennis made both free throws to push the 49ers ahead 50-46 with six seconds to play. A last second tip-in by Cal Poly wasn't enough as the game ended with the 49ers winning 50-48.
Cal Poly's 48 points was the fewest allowed by the 49ers this season, as well as the fewest allowed since they held UC Davis to 46 last year at the Big West Tournament (3/8/12). Long Beach held Cal Poly to just 31.5% shooting, the lowest percentage of the season for the 49er defense, and the lowest percentage since holding UC Riverside to 28.8% last year (2/25/12).
Ennis ended the game with 23 points, extending his double-digit scoring streak to 26 games. He has scored over 20 points in six games this season. The senior scored 18 of his 23 points in the second half alone. Tony Freeland added nine points and four rebounds, while Dan Jennings grabbed eight boards for the 49ers.
"When you get to this point in conference, you know there are going to be a lot of close games," said Ennis. "We are staying together and talking a lot on the court and that helped us tonight. It boosts our confidence because we know we can win in tight situations like tonight."
The first half saw Cal Poly lead 11-5 early, but the 49ers tied the game at 11. The Mustangs would then go on a 10-2 run to lead 21-13, capped off by a four-point play after Kris Gulley fouled Reese Morgan as he hit a three-pointer. The 49ers would go on a 12-4 run to tie the game at 25 all, but the Mustangs would go into the halftime break up 30-25.
Long Beach will hit the road for its next two games, heading to Hawai'i for a Thursday night game (Feb. 7) and then Cal State Northridge on Saturday, Feb. 9.
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