March 11, 2012
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Casper Warewasn't going to let his career end without a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
The two-time Big West Conference Player of the Year took over the Big West Conference Tournament championship game scoring 33 points to lead Long Beach State to a 77-64 win over UC Santa Barbara on Saturday night in the Honda Center in front of 7,564.
The senior guard matched his career high, and the school record, with eight 3-pointers all but making his selection as the tournament's Most Valuable Player a no-brainer. The 30-point game was the third of the season for Ware, who also handed out six assists. He averaged 22 points in the 49ers' three Big West Tournament wins.
James Ennis, an all-tournament selection, added 15 points and four rebounds. Edis Dervisevicmade his first start of the season and responded with a career-high nine rebounds, while matching his career high with five assists.
The Big West Tournament title is the fifth all-time for the 49ers, who will be making their ninth NCAA Tournament appearance. The 49ers also went to the tournament in 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1977, 1993, 1995 and 2007.
Head coach Dan Monsonwill take his third different team to the NCAA Tournament. He led Gonzaga to the Elite Eight in 1999 and took Minnesota to the first round in 2005.
"It's been a four-year process to get here and any road you travel you always want it to be shorter than it actually is," Monson said. "I told Cas (Ware) earlier in the week `you know, I've got good feelings. Anytime I've gone to the NCAA Tournament, my best player has taken me there. And I can't get it out of my mind that you're going to do that this week' and he had this look and it was contagious. It was a look that said we're going to do this."
Both teams started hot offensively with the 49ers hitting seven of their first 14 shots, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range. UCSB countered with seven makes on 13 shots, but just 1-of-3 from three to give LBSU a 20-15 lead with 11:43 to play.
Ware was key for the 49ers going 3-of-5 from three for nine points. Ennis added six points on 2-of-3 from long range.
James Nunnally, who finished with 17 points, led the Gauchos with five points on 2-of-4 shooting during the stretch.
The 49ers (25-8) pushed their lead to as many as nine in the first half, 33-24, on a 3-pointer by Peter Pappageorge. The Gauchos closed the deficit to two on a Nunnally hoop with a second to play giving LBSU a 36-34 lead at the break.
Ware led LBSU in the half with 14 points and five assists. Pappageorge added eight off the bench as the 49ers made 44.8 percent (13-of-29) shots, including 8-of-19 from three.
UCSB connected on 53.3 percent (16-of-30), but just 2-of-7 from three.
Ware and Nunnally went back and forth early in the second half. Ware scored 10 off LBSU's 11 points in the first 4:10 in the half while Nunnally got six of UCSB's 12 to cut Long Beach State's lead to 47-46 with 14:34 to play.
The 49ers went on a 7-0 run over the next 3:38 to extend the lead to 54-46. Ware started the spurt with a four-point play. He canned a three and was fouled by Jaime Serna. After a steal by Dervisevic, the 49ers found T.J. Robinsonin transition for a hoop and a foul. It was Robinson's first basket of the game. He added the free throw.
After a timeout, Ware extended the lead to 11, 57-46, with a long three. Eugene Phelpsadded a hoop to make it 59-46, capping a 12-0 run before UCSB scored.
UCSB answered with an 11-5 run with Orlando Johnson (17 points) hitting back-to-back threes to get within seven, 64-57.
Ennis got the momentum back with six straight points, to make it 70-57, including a monster jam in transition off a nice pass from Mike Caffey.
UCSB (20-10) could never recover as Long Beach State cruised to the title.
The 49er team will have a viewing party at Legends Sports Bar on East 2nd Street in Long Beach at 2 p.m. The selection show starts at 3 p.m.
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