Dec. 31, 2016
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LONG BEACH, Calif. - Four Long Beach State players scored in double-figures and put an end to Columbia's seven-game winning streak as the Beach recorded a 73-60 victory at the Walter Pyramid to close out the year and the non-conference portion of the schedule.
The Beach improved to 9-6 on the year, while the Lions fell to 9-3 after suffering their first loss since Nov. 22 at Stony Brook.
"I credit Columbia for their effort and their toughness," Long Beach State head coach Jody Wynn said. "I thought they played very tough today.
"I think over the course of the last two months that we have gotten better as a team. We understand what it takes to win and what happens when we take breaks and take possessions off and let teams go on runs. I think we've gotten smarter and I think that our bench has developed, but we have to continue to work and continue to get better in order for us to execute clean shots and control the ball."
Senior forward Madison Montgomery led the Beach offense with a 15-point effort, while Jewelyn Sawyer (14 points), Raven Benton (12 points) and Jessica Gertz (11 points) rounded out the double-figure scorers for the 49ers.
Sawyer led the team with six rebounds, while Martina McCowan grabbed five and Montgomery and freshman Alzena Henry added four apiece. Sawyer also contributed two steals and two assists while shooting 55.6 percent (5-for-9) from the field.
"My challenge for Jewelyn was to not turn the ball over and she met that challenge - she didn't turn the ball over," Wynn said of her senior forward. "So that was something that she was concentrating on. Madi (Montgomery) did a good job on the boards and being able to strike inside first and work her way out. Both of them have had really good preseasons. I'm excited to watch them and see them continue to become more consistent contributors throughout conference play."
Although the Beach turned in several solid individual performances on offense, the team defense shined once again as the 49ers forced 28 turnovers, swiped 14 steals and scored 29 points off of turnovers. Senior point guard Anna Kim led LBSU with three steals, while Sawyer, McCowan, Gertz and Benton each grabbed two steals each.
"I'm really proud of the growth that we've seen with Martina McCowan," Wynn stated. "She's been a solid defender. Her length bothers opponent guards and she's staying disciplined to the offense and making better decisions. She's knocking down the three ball, which is something that she didn't do as a freshman. She's playing with a lot of confidence right now. For her, being a sophomore and really stepping up, after not playing a lot last year to being in every game and putting in significant minutes, it's really helped us. Then when you add Cece (Wilson) and Raven (Benton), it's nice to have that kind of depth."
The Beach utilized its depth as 11 players saw action in the game and 31 of their 73 points came from the bench.
Long Beach State broke a 2-2 tie in the first quarter on a 13-0 run and never looked back. The Beach held the lead for the remainder of the game, although the Lions stayed within striking distance.
The 49er defense was solid in the first as they held Columbia without a field goal for more than eight minutes. The Lions hit their first field goal at 1:58 by Paulina Koerner to make it a 15-4 ballgame. The Beach's defense was on point and held the Lions to just 25 percent (3-for-12) shooting from the field and 20 percent (1-for-5) shooting from three-point range in the frame.
LBSU held a 20-11 advantage going into the second quarter, but that did not deter Columbia. The Lions chipped away at the Beach's lead and eventually made it a one-possession game (20-17) with 8:44 on the clock forcing the 49ers to call a timeout.
The Beach regrouped and pushed their lead to up to 12 (31-19) and eventually took a 36-27 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Columbia stayed close throughout the third quarter as the Lions cut the 49ers' lead down to three again (50-47) with 1:51 remaining in the frame. Although the deficit was getting smaller, the Beach was not fazed and they closed out the third quarter on a 7-0 run to take a 10-point lead (57-47) lead into the final frame.
Long Beach State shot 45.5 percent (5-for-11) from the field in the fourth quarter and the defense held Columbia to just 30 percent (3-for-10) shooting as the 49ers took their largest lead of the game (69-49) at 6:22. The Beach did not allow the Lions to connect on a three in the second half and limited them to just 21.4 percent (3-for-14) shooting from beyond the arc in the game.
While the defense kept the Lions off the board, the offense took advantage of six turnovers in the final frame and scored seven points off of turnovers. With a total of 16 points scored in the quarter, the Beach tallied nearly 44 percent off of turnovers.
LBSU held Columbia at a distance in the final five minutes of action and never let the Lions come closer than 13. The Beach went on to win the contest by a score of 73-60 and never allowed Columbia to take a lead in the game.
Columbia was led by Camille Zimmerman and Tori Oliver who scored 19 and 18 points, respectively. Oliver grabbed nine rebounds, while Zimmerman pulled down eight. However, Zimmerman also turned the ball over 11 times to contribute to nearly 40 percent of the Lions' turnovers.
Long Beach State kicks off Big West Conference action on Thursday, Jan. 5 when it hosts Hawaii at 7 p.m. at the Walter Pyramid.