March 11, 2012
LONG BEACH, Calif. - Long Beach State drew a No. 12 seed and will play No. 5 seed New Mexico at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore., on Thursday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The 49ers (25-8) advanced to the tournament for the ninth time in school history and the first since the 2007 season. LBSU earned the Big West Conference's automatic bid after handing UC Santa Barbara a 77-64 loss in the championship game of the Big West Conference Tournament on Saturday night.
Casper Ware, the two time conference player of the year, earned tournament MVP honors after scoring a team-high 33 points in the championship game on Saturday night at the Honda Center. The 5-foot-10 point guard led Long Beach State to its second straight regular-season title this season averaging 17.4 points per game, while handing out 108 assists.
He is joined by a pair of first-team All-Big West picks in Larry Anderson and T.J. Robinson. Anderson, who missed the Big West Tournament with a sprained knee but is expected to return for the NCAA Tournament, is a three-time first-team all-league selection and holds the LBSU career record for steals.
Robinson is a two-time first-team selection and is the all-time leading rebounder in Big West Conference history. He averages 12.0 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, the third straight season the school's rebounding king has averaged a double-double.
All five 49er starters earned Big West all-league honors this season. Senior Eugene Phelps was a second-team pick and junior James Ennis claimed honorable mention honors, as well as being named to the Big West Conference All-Tournament Team.
Defense should be the name of the game Thursday. The 49ers led the Big West limiting their opponents to just 63.6 points per game, but the Lobos were even better hamstring opposing offenses to just 59.1 points per game. LBSU held opponents to 41.9 percent shooting, while UNM limited opponents to 38 percent.
Drew Gordon, the Mountain West Tournament MVP, leads New Mexico averaging 13.4 points per game, while Kendall Williams adds 12 points per game and Tony Snell chips in 11 points. UNM averaged 73.2 points compared to LBSU's 74.
The 49es and Lobos have met five times in the history of the programs with UNM leading the series 3-2. The two teams haven't met since Nov. 29, 1986, when the Lobos won 92-88. LBSU's last win came on Dec. 20, 1982, when the 49ers won 98-95. Dan Monson is 1-0 all-time against New Mexico.
The winner of the Long Beach State-New Mexico game will play the winner of No. 4 seed Louisville and No. 13 seed Davidson on Saturday. The 49ers played at Louisville on Nov. 28, losing 79-66. LBSU trailed by just five with less than seven minutes to play, but the Cardinals clinched the game at the free throw line late.
The Louisville game was one of eight the 49ers played against teams in this year's NCAA Tournament field. LBSU faced No. 1 seed North Carolina, No. 2 seed Kansas, No. 6 seed San Diego State, No. 8 seeds Kansas State at Creighton, No. 10 seed Xavier, and No. 13 Montana.
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