Feb. 27, 2016
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Long Beach, Calif. - Long Beach State rallied from a slow start with solid defensive pressure and balanced scoring, ultimately moving past UC Riverside 66-55 on Saturday in the Walter Pyramid.
Nick Faust led the way for Long Beach State (15-13, 10-4) with 17 points, while Gabe Levin added 13 points with eight rebounds and Justin Bibbins contributed 10 points with seven assists and four steals.
The 49ers only shot 37.7 percent as a team on the evening, despite having nine players score and five contribute five or more points, and were 15-of-25 from the free throw line.
"We were really choppy offensively, and really struggled against a good defensive team," said Dan Monson. "But I'm pleased with our focus on finding ourselves, and being able to win games on the defensive end. I thought our guys bounced back from giving up 90 [points] last week."
"I thought A.J. Spencer did a good job of disrupting [Jaylen] Bland," continued Monson. "He's one of the best scorers in the conference, and I think A.J. really took [his role] personally."
Bland, who had come into the game third in the Big West in scoring, was held to eight points with Spencer primarily tasked with guarding him. Bland finished on 2-of-10 shooting on the night.
UC Riverside (14-16, 5-9 Big West) controlled the early run of play. Mason Riggins scored the opening basket of the game but UC Riverside would open up an 11-4 lead. With the Highlanders up seven a second time at 13-6, Long Beach State got a three-pointer from Noah Blackwell that began a 18-3 run.
The Highlanders pulled to within six at the half, and pulled to within four at 31-27 after a pair of Secean Johnson free throws with 18:49 remaining.
Riggins found the answer for the Beach, as the freshman was on the finishing end of a spectacular alley oop, and then pushed the lead to eight with a bucket two possessions later.
A 3-pointer from Faust pushed the lead to ten points, and the Highlanders never got closer than five points over the rest of the contest.
"Games like this help us because you get confidence that it's okay [to miss some shots]," noted Monson after the game. "We're going to play defense and get some stops, and today we were able to do that -- fight through the free throws and some of the uncharacteristic misses we had on open shots."
The win for Long Beach State marks the sixth season in a row that the Beach has won at least 10 conference games -- the longest such streak in school history.
Long Beach State travels to Cal State Fullerton next Wednesday night, and then closes the regular season at home against Hawai'i on Saturday, March 5 at 4 p.m.