Big West basketball has been the Gaucho-49er showdown for the past few years, with one of these two teams typically making it to the NCAA tournament. So what happens when neither team looks like a title contender? The same thing that always happens: a good, old fashioned competition...or at least it was in the first half.
Mitch Brewe and Michael Bryson led the way for the Gauchos through the first half, building up an early lead. However, it was Mike Caffey for the 49ers who kept The Beach close throughout the half, countering an atrocious shooting effort by the rest of the team. More specifically, it was Caffey who gave The Beach the lead with 2:26 left in the first half.
The psychological outcome of this game came soon after.
After a Taran Brown free throw to tie it up, The Beach missed four consecutive shots. With the clock winding down, an alley-oop was lofted and Sophomore Sam Beeler threw it down with one second left before half.
It was all Gauchos from then on.
Long Beach State was held to their second worst output of the season, shooting 29.9% from the field (an abysmal 18.5% from beyond the arc). Mike Caffey finished up with 21 points, as the 49ers mustered up 51 points total. The only upside for The Beach, was that they only committed 7 turnovers and forced 19.
For the Gauchos, balanced scoring was the key, as Bryson and Brewe contributed 13 and 12 points respectively, while Alan Williams had 12 points and 15 rebounds. Zalmico Harmon provided extra support, with 9 assists, and really appeared to be the man who controlled the Gaucho offense on the night.
UCSB shot 50.9% on the night, and would have routed the 49ers if they had not committed so many turnovers. No harm done though as the Gauchos collected 47 rebounds (33 defensive).
The Gauchos move to 1-1 in conference play, while The Beach drops to 1-2. It's still too early to consider either one of these teams out of the Big West race, but for LBSU, the climb is approaching pyramid-scaling levels of difficulty.