At times, the Black and Blue Rivalry seemed to be black and blue for other reasons than school colors. There was general sloppy play, hard fouls and bloody fingers. In the end, it was UC Irvine who sent Long Beach State home feeling blue, as the Anteaters edged out the 49ers 61-58.
Long Beach State had been riding a 4-game win streak heading into this game. After starting the season 4-10, The Beach had forced its way into a three-way tie with Irvine and UC Santa Barbara at the top of the conference standings. They certainly seemed to have the advantage.
The Anteaters did not seemed phased by this. They called for their students to have a "White Out" night and hyped up the rivalry for Fox Sports. The Bren Events Center was rockin' for the channel that was usually reserved to show Blake Griffin and Lob City in prime time. They should have re-named Irvine, "Block City."
It was mostly sloppy play which led to a back and forth first half. The sheer size of Mamadou Ndiaye was enough to intimidate 49ers center Dan Jennings, to get into foul trouble within the first five minutes of the game trying to unsuccessfully grab for rebounds. On the other side, Irvine could not get their shots to fall allowing The Beach to come up with scrappy rebounds on the ground.
The Beach looked to have a slight advantage going into halftime when Luke Nelson sank a three to tie the game. The British national was the main offensive force for the Anteaters scoring 16 points in the first half alone.
The second half continued back and forth with no team wanting to take advantage of each other's mistakes. Finally Chris McNealy stole a 49er rebound, drove to the other end of the court, went up for the shot and was fouled with a nasty cut to the pinky finger. After a long time out, with the referees and McNealy trying to figure out who and what was bleeding, the senior guard sank his free throws.
Within the minute, the Anteaters were ahead for good.
The Beach continued their failed frontal assault allowing Ndiaye to easily break the Big West record for blocks in a game. A missed shot at the buzzer officially snapped the win streak for the 49ers and kept the Anteaters in first place.
Mamdou Ndiaye collected the rare defensive double-double with 10 rebounds, 11 blocks and 8 points, barely missing out on the triple-double. Luke Nelson was the offensive story for the Anteaters, ending his night with 28 points.
For the 49ers, Dan Jennings led the team with 14 points and 7 rebounds. Travis Hammonds collected a double-double of his own, with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Mike Caffey and Tyler Lamb were held to 17 points total.
The Anteaters will travel to UC Davis on Saturday, to take on the Aggies, while Long Beach State will travel to UC Riverside in an attempt to release their offensive frustration on the Highlanders.