Long Beach State Begins Big West Play Thursday Against UC Irvine
Jan. 8, 2014
Long Beach, Calif. -
Game: Long Beach State vs. UC Irvine
Tyler Lamb, a junior transfer from UCLA, became eligible for the 49ers on December 19, and has immediately had a huge impact, leading Long Beach State to three wins. Lamb scored 20 points off of the bench against USC, helping the 49ers earn their first win over a Pac-12 opponent at home since 1999 in a 72-71 win. Lamb scored a career-high 29 points, helping Long Beach State erase a six-point halftime deficit in a 82-75 win over Montana State-Billings. Entering the starting lineup, the junior transfer scored 17 points against Nevada, and then matched that total with a team-high 17 at Missouri.
Long Beach State has won five straight conference home openers, and is 5-1 overall in those games under Dan Monson. The only loss came in Monson's first season with the team. Last season, the 49ers opened Big West play in the Walter Pyramid with a 67-63 win over Pacific, with Mike Caffey and James Ennis sharing the scoring honors with 19 points each.
The 49ers have cleaned up their ball-handling over their last 9 games, and it has resulted in better success on the floor. After averaging almost 15 turnovers per game in the first five contests, Long Beach State has averaged 10.4 turnovers per game, nearly five less per game after their 1-4 start.
Thursday's game will also be broadcast live on Fox Sports Prime Ticket, with Paul Sunderland, Michael Cage, and Rahshaun Haylock on the call.
Senior Dan Jennings continues to put up big numbers for the 49ers in his final season. Jennings ranks fourth in the Big West in rebounding with 7.9 rebounds per game, and is second on the 49ers with 11.2 points per game. Three times Jennings has led the 49ers in scoring, and has topped the team in rebounding eight times in 2013-14.
After scoring 12 points against Loyola Marymount, junior A.J. Spencer has secured a spot in the starting lineup, scoring in double-figures in eight of the last 11 games. The junior college transfer scored a career-high 19 points against Montana State-Billings, and is third on the team with an 8.9 ppg average.
Originally serving as a backup to Mike Caffey, Branford Jones forced his way into the starting lineup as an extra ball-handler against VCU, and responded with a breakout game, scoring 19 points in 37 minutes with just one turnover against VCU's havoc defense. The redshirt freshman is continuing to showcase much of the promise the guard showed before going down with an ankle injury in the first game of the year last season. Jones currently ranks fifth on the team in scoring, averaging 6.1 points per game and is second on the team with 37 assists.
Junior college transfer David Samuels had his best game as a 49er at NC State, posting his first double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds. That was the fourth double-double on the year for LBSU, with Dan Jennings putting up three in the first 10 games for the 49ers. Samuels' 5.8 rebounds per game rank 11th in the Big West, and is second on Long Beach State.
The 49ers also bring in freshman Travis Hammonds, who will join Long Beach State after enrolling for the spring semester. Hammonds is a 6-6 guard who hails from Columbia, S.C., and scored his first two points of the season from the line against Nevada.
Charles Lockett remains on a redshirt year, and senior forward Edgar Garibay is out for the year with an ACL tear. Nick Shepherd is the latest injury casualty, out with a wrist fracture, while freshman Anson Moye is still recovering from a broken foot, but is looking to return to the team soon.
THIS AND THAT
Long Beach State will again face a grueling non-conference schedule. The 49ers faced No. 5 Arizona in their first road test on November 11, and continued to play two more Top 15 opponents in No. 14 Michigan and No. 10 VCU at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. The 49ers also faced a Big East opponent into the Walter Pyramid when Creighton arrived December 3. The 49ers have also played Kansas State twice, beat USC at home, travelled to Washington and NC State, and still have a game against No. 25 Missouri on the schedule in games against BCS conferences.
Long Beach State's strength of schedule is also objectively among the highest - the 49ers currently rank as having the No. 3 Non-Conference SOS as ranked by kenpom.com. It is also ranked No. 2 by WarrenNolan.com at the conclusion of non-conference play.
Unlucky is the only word for it -- the 49ers have lost all three games that the team has shot over 50% thus far in the season, contributing to the teams overall record, in a mark that is an outlier in performance ... Meanwhile, the team is just under .500 while shooting under .500 at 4-6.
With Long Beach State's win Dec. 19 against USC, Dan Monson moved into second-place in coaching wins at Long Beach State with 106, passing Seth Greenberg. Monson currently has 108 wins at Long Beach State. The top spot is held by Jerry Tarkanian, who won 122 games as the coach of the 49ers from 1968 to 1973.
ABOUT UC IRVINE
UC Irvine was picked to win the conference prior to the beginning of the season, getting nine first-place votes. Will Davis II was also a preseason All-Big West selection, and is leading the team in scoring with 12.5 points per game.
The Anteaters have had balanced scoring on the way to a 9-7 overall mark, third-best in the Big West during non-conference play. While Davis II leads the team in scoring a rebounding, UCI has five players averaging over nine points per game, and Chris McNealy and Luke Nelson are averaging double-figures along with Davis II, each at 11.6 points per game.
Long Beach State leads their rivals in one of its most played series, 55-35, and has won five straight at home against UC Irvine. The Anteaters have won two straight games against the 49ers, however, including a 67-60 loss in the Big West Tournament last season.