ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The second-seeded Long Beach State women's basketball team utilized a strong defensive effort to limit No. 3 seed CSUN to just 27.3 percent shooting in the fourth quarter as the Beach held off the Matadors to earn a 61-60 victory in the semifinal game at the Honda Center on Friday.
With the win, Long Beach State improves to 22-10 overall and advances to the Big West Tournament Championship game against No. 4 seed UC Santa Barbara (16-15) on Saturday, March 11 at 4 p.m., at the Honda Center. The game will be televised on Fox Sports Prime Ticket.
The Beach used a total team effort to get past CSUN (18-14) as all 13 players saw action in the game. Senior guard Raven Benton led all scorers with 22 points in the game as she poured in 20 points in the first half alone. She was joined in double-figures by senior point guard Anna Kim (14 points) and junior guard Jessica Gertz (10 points).
Long Beach State came out ready to play as the Beach tallied 20 points in the first quarter with Benton and Gertz combining for 16 of those points. The 49ers tallied six straight points and held the Matadors scoreless for nearly four minutes to take a five-point lead into the second quarter.
The second quarter saw the Matadors notch 20 points in the frame to pull within one (36-35) of the Beach at halftime. Benton recorded 11 points in the 10-minute frame to bring her point total to 20 as she was shooting 50 percent (6-for-12) from the field at the half.
The game was close throughout as the two teams battled through 10 ties and nine lead changes and found themselves deadlocked at 48-48 heading into the fourth quarter.
After being held scoreless in the third quarter, Benton got things started for the Beach in the fourth with a layup to put them up 50-48. Long Beach State went on a 11-3 run to open up an eight-point lead (61-53) marking the largest margin between either team on the night.
Long Beach State's defense stepped up and held CSUN scoreless for more than three minutes in the frame as they pulled out in front. However, the Matadors would not go away quietly as they turned the table on the 49ers and kept them off the scoreboard for the next 3-plus minutes as CSUN cut Long Beach State's lead to one (61-60) with 1:44 left in the game.
For the final minute-and-a-half, the two teams fought tooth and nail for the win and with 6.3 seconds on the clock, CSUN had possession and missed a three as the clock expired sending the Long Beach State bench onto the court in full celebration mode.
The Beach held CSUN to just 27.3 percent (3-for-11) shooting in the fourth quarter and allowed just one three in the frame. Meanwhile, Long Beach State turned in its highest shooting percentage (46.2) of the game in the fourth quarter as the Beach connected on 6-of-13 field goals to secure the win.
CSUN was led by Channon Fluker who notched a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Serafina Maulupe and Tessa Boagni each added 11 points in the game.
Long Beach State has reached the Big West Tournament Championship game for the first time since 2012.
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