Long Beach State not satisfied with its play in Big West
A 6-1 start and a 15-point win over a team in the top half of the Big West Conference standings usually is a pretty good thing. It's not that it's not good in Long Beach, it's just not good enough.
The Beach overcame a 12-0 start against Hawaii and held off the Rainbow Warriors' furious second-half rally to win 65-50 Saturday night at the Pyramid. The win moves them into first place in the Big West standings, but it took two frustrating games over the course of three days to get to this point.
The key frustration for head coach Dan Monson is consistency, which along with luck, of course, is what the best teams in March display.
"I'm disappointed that we didn't have a solid week in our games," Monson said. "We still make it so hard because we still didn't rebound as good as we need to, we turned it over 20 times and our preparation and our start was horrendous."
Only two-days removed from an overtime win against rival Cal State Fullerton on the road, Long Beach State was drained. A poor day of practice following the Fullerton game showed in the way the 49ers missed their first six field goals.
Mike Caffey scored 34 against the Titans but only five against Hawaii. David Samuels had 11 points with nine rebounds without his legs, which he said were still cramping from Thursday's game. It would be easy to point the finger at Thursday's game, but when you have to win three in a span of three days to get into the NCAA Tournament, there isn't any room for excuses.
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"We're in big trouble if we can't go into an emotional overtime game take a day off. Play like that, we're going to be watching the NCAA tournament from home," Monson said. "How long do you dwell on that? It was two days ago."
What Monson wants his team to take is two things: The play of the bench, which had a 31-point night and the way that the team regained its composure late in the first half by getting in to a rhythm and not letting the 'Bows take them out of it.
"Our bench deserves a lot of credit because they came in and righted the ship for us and the other guys came in and got us into a flow," Monson said. "We've got to keep guys in the flow. We've got to be able to keep Dave and Mike fresh but still in the flow. We've got to get Tyler (Lamb) back in the flow.
"When you have 11 guys, you're not going to have them all every night, and it's good to see that other guys step up when you see that other guys like Mike didn't have it."
Caffey had a rare off night. His team picked him up, but they're not expecting another from him anytime soon.
"Coach said Mike gets one game off, he doesn't have to go 34-35," Samuels joked. "This was his one game."
So, it turns out that the 49ers are not a finished product yet. The same could probably be said for most of the Big West's top teams. It's clear that they've still got room to grow on the boards and when Caffey isn't playing on the ball, the ball-handling lacks. But it was an outstanding defensive effort to hold the third-highest scoring team in the league 20 points below its average.
The best part for Monson, and maybe the scary part for the rest of the Big West, is that all involved agree that Long Beach State isn't playing to its full potential yet. There's a lot of basketball left and a lot more for The Beach to show.
"It's fun for me as a coach because I'm like, 'This team could be better,'" he said. "The tough ones are when you're playing and it's, 'This team is playing as good as they can and we're coming up short.' We won by 15 today and I'm saying we're not where we want to be. That's a good sign."