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49ers advance to Big West Tournament championship game with win over UC Irvine

Casper Ware scored 15 of his 22 points in the first half

March 9, 2012

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ANAHEIM, Calif. - Casper Ware and Edis Dervisevichelped Long Beach State overcome a slow start and rally to advance to the championship game of the Big West Conference Tournament with a 68-57 win over UC Irvine in the semifinals on Friday night at the Honda Center.

Ware paced LBSU (24-8) with 22 points, while Dervisevic added energy as well as eight points, five rebounds and a career-high tying five assists for the 49ers.

James Ennis had his first career double-double (13 points/10 rebounds), while T.J. Robinson added his 54th career double-double (11 points/10 rebounds) for LBSU. Mike Caffey chipped in 11 points in his second career start in place of injured Larry Anderson.

With the win, Long Beach State advances to the championship game of the Big West Conference Tournament for the third consecutive year, where they will meet UC Santa Barbara for the third time in as many years.

Long Beach State swept the season series from UCSB winning 71-48 in Santa Barbara and 70-58 in Long Beach.

It looked like the 49ers hopes of a Big West Tournament title might end in the semifinals. UC Irvine (12-20) jumped on the 49ers early outscoring LBSU 9-0 in the first 3:13, before Ware answered with a three and a hoop off a steal. The Anteaters scored the next hoop to take an 11-5 lead, thanks to 4-of-4 shooting to start the game.

Ware kept the 49ers in the game early scoring the team's first eight points. He finally got some help when Ennis canned a three at 13:11 to tie the game. After Irvine retook the lead with a hoop by Derick Flowers, LBSU answered with a three by Caffey giving the 49ers their first lead with 11:50 to play in the half.

Irvine didn't fold rallying to take a one-point lead, 28-27, into the half behind the play of Michael Wilder, who scored 12 first-half points on 4-of-6 shooting before the break.

Ware carried LBSU out-scoring his teammates 15-13 in the half. The 49ers struggled making just 9-of-32 shots, and the seven 49ers who played besides Ware went 4-of-22 (18.2 percent).

The 49ers were able to stay in the game despite UCI making 45.5 percent (10-of-22) of its shots, thanks to a 10-rebound advantage (23 to 13 with 12 offensive boards) that led to 10 more field goal attempts.

Irvine came out of the half hot, hitting 3-of-4 threes in the first 4:15 to take a 39-35 lead. Daman Starring had two while Wilder hit one. Ware made a three, while Dervisevic had back-to-back hoops to keep LBSU in striking distance.

The 49ers came out of the first media timeout with a 10-4 run, including a 6-0 spurt on back-to-back threes by Ennis and Caffey to give the 49ers a 45-43 lead and force UCI to burn a timeout. Dervisevic added a hoop in the stretch on a wide open layup on a nice pass from Caffey in the offensive set.

The 49ers kept the pressure on extending the run to 15-4 on back-to-back baskets by Robinson to take a 50-43 edge. The second basket was an old-fashioned three-point play.

The 49ers kept it rolling with a 3-pointer by Caffey to push the lead to 10, 54-43. UCI scored the next three points to snap the run at 18-4, which included a 10-0 stretch after UCI took a 43-39 lead.

The 49ers never looked back building their lead to as many as 12.



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