No. 16 UCLA the latest tough opponent for Long Beach State
Long Beach State's murderer's row type of schedule on the road to start the season continues Sunday at No. 16 UCLA.
After winning the season-opener at home against Cal State Los Angeles, Long Beach State embarked on an arduous road trip that has included blowout losses to Wichita State (92-55), North Carolina (93-67) and Louisville (88-56). The average margin of defeat in those three games is 28.3 points.
In the last game at Louisville on Thursday, Long Beach State's confidence was subdued from the start allowing an 18-0 run in a four-minute span early in the first half.
“We just weren't able to withstand that first blow to stay in the game,” said Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson. “Once we got comfortable, it was too late, and the game was over. You come on these road trips to give the team some adversity, to help make them better, and I don't think we handled it any better than we did on Tuesday (against North Carolina).”
While Long Beach State has taken its lumps on the road, UCLA has won its first three games at Pauley Pavilion by lopsided scores. The Bruins improved to 3-0 Thursday night after defeating San Diego 88-68, which followed a 119-80 win over Pacific and 102-82 victory over Cal State Northridge.
The Bruins are scoring 103 points a game with five players with at least 14 points a game, led by freshman forward T.J Leaf and senior guard Bryce Alford, both of whom are averaging 20 points. Freshman point guard Lonzo Ball is averaging close to a triple-double at 15 points, 7.7 assists and 8.3 rebounds a game.
Leaf had 22 points and 15 rebounds in the opener against Pacific and tallied 26 points and 10 rebounds against San Diego. Junior center Thomas Welsh also had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
“I thought TJ was really good,” said UCLA coach Steve Alford, who has lauded his team's versatility to shoot from the perimeter and score in the paint. “We wanted to attack inside. I thought we really started executing on offense that was geared towards getting the ball inside.
“It was a season-low for us in threes (5 of 22 performance against San Diego) but it was a game where our emphasis was really getting — I thought all three of our bigs (including reserve center Gyorgy Goloman) did a really good job.”
Long Beach State is averaging 68.2 points a game while shooting 36.8 percent from the field and 23.8 percent from 3-point range. Only two players are averaging scoring in double figures, forward Gabe Levin (13.3 points a game) and guard Evan Payne (10.8), both of whom are Loyola Marymount transfers.
Levin also leads the 49ers win rebounds with 7.5 a despite being a wing player at 6-foot-7 and 215 pounds.
After the game against Long Beach State, UCLA leaves Pauley Pavilion but stays in southern California to play in the Wooden Legacy in Anaheim, Calif., on Thursday, Friday and Nov. 27. The field includes Dayton, Virginia Tech, New Mexico and Texas A&M.
The 49ers' difficult road trip continues with a game at Washington on Tuesday.
“We'll get better from this, watching it, and our guys will grow,” Monson said of the early-season schedule. “We have to get into our league and be the best team in our league, and that's why we challenge ourselves as best as we can with this schedule.”