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Guards, Defense Lead Long Beach State To Black And Blue Rivalry Win Over UC Irvine

Feb. 4, 2017

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Long Beach, Calif. - Long Beach State held UC Irvine scoreless over the first four minutes of Saturday's contest in front of a sold-out Walter Pyramid crowd, and that set the tone for the evening as the Beach put up one of their best defensive performances of the year in a 72-63 victory.

"That was a good character check for our team," said Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson. "Coming off of our worst defensive performance of the year, maybe since we've been here, and to come back against who I think is the best all-around team in the league, it was a real gut check to see how we're going to respond. I was really proud of our guys. Their attitude and their effort today was tremendous."

Long Beach State (10-15, 5-4 Big West) held UC Irvine (13-12, 6-3 Big West) to just 36.5 percent shooting, and returning guard Luke Nelson was the only Anteater to score in double-figures with 17 points.

"I think a part of it is the respect we have for UC Irvine," said Monson on what sparked the defensive turnaround. "We knew that this was going to be a championship caliber intensity type of game, and I think we were embarrassed of what our intensity was like [at CSUN]."

Evan Payne led all scorers with 19 points, while freshman Loren Jackson added 15 points with three steals, and Justin Bibbins added 14 points and six assists as the starting guard trio combined for 48 of Long Beach State's 72 points on the evening.

The Black and Blue Rivalry lived up to its name early, as neither team scored until Jackson scored on a fast break after three and a half minutes. The Beach kept up that intensity even after the Anteaters scored, and opened up a 13-5 lead over the first eight minutes of the game.

Getting into the bonus, Long Beach State would eventually push the lead to fifteen at 26-11 on a pair of Payne free throws, but the Anteaters would push back, pulling to within four points at halftime, 32-28.

The second half continued to be close, and UC Irvine took the lead for the first time with 6:44 left to play on a Nelson three. Payne answered with a triple on the next trip down the floor for the Beach, and then a monster dunk from Mason Riggins put the Beach in front by two scores at 56-52.

The Beach would hit their free throws down the stretch to hold off the `Eaters the rest of the way, closing out the game with a 72-63 win.

Long Beach State is on the road for both games next week, facing UC Riverside on Thursday before taking on Cal State Fullerton on Saturday. Thursday's tip is scheduled for 7 p.m., and will be broadcast live on ESPN3.



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