Long Beach, Calif. - Temidayo Yussuf was a perfect 9-for-9 from the floor, finishing with 23 points as Long Beach State dominated the paint against Hawai'i in an 84-75 win to close the regular season in the Walter Pyramid.
Noah Blackwell added 17 for Long Beach State (14-18, 9-7 Big West), one of four 49ers in double figures. He was joined by Roschon Prince, who finished with his ninth double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds along with Justin Bibbins, who scored 12 points with six assists on the night.
"I don't think it's a secret that it's been an up-and-down year season for the 49ers, but it was nice to end on an up, and have a little bit of an uptick as we head into the tournament," said head coach Dan Monson. "I really liked our attitude today. I thought we were selfless, particularly early in the game ... Our guys really played for each other."
Long Beach State went to Yussuf early and often, who kept the Beach close with 13 first-half points as Hawai'i (14-15, 8-8 Big West) unleashed a barrage of 3-pointers, making six in the first 12 minutes to take a 28-22 lead.
Employing a press to perfection in the next few minutes, Long Beach State quickly climbed back into the game with a 17-3 run capitalized by a great hustle play from Evan Payne, who blocked a three from Noah Allen and then ran down the ball to make the save, finding a teammate to start the break which was finished by Bibbins. A Barry Ogalue dunk on the next play after a steal from Loren Jackson pushed the lead to eight, and LBSU went into the locker room up six at 45-39.
Long Beach State never again trailed in the game. Hawai'i pulled to with one points at 65-64, but Payne answered with a jumper to start an 8-0 run for the Beach that put them on top The Beach hit their free throws on their way to the win over the final minutes, including the team's senior, Anson Moye, who hit one of two before leaving the game to a tremendous ovation for the former walk-on following his sixth start of the season.
The teams will have a rematch in the Big West Tournament quarterfinals this Thursday. With the postseason ban for Hawai'i having been lifted by the NCAA, the Rainbow Warriors will be the No. 5 seed and face the Beach, seeded fourth, at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 9 in the Honda Center. That game will be shown live on Fox Sports Prime Ticket.
"We've got to find a good balance and hopefully play even better on Thursday," said Monson. "Obviously, this was the easy one of the two. It was the one at home, and the one that doesn't mean as much. We've got to understand that we're in for a very difficult game on Thursday, but that's what tournament time is for."
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