Long Beach State, taking the first step in another year of running the gauntlet, made a statement that will be heard not just by the night owls.
Everybody knows, by now, that BYU plays fast. If somehow you didn't, it only took two minutes and 19 seconds for you to learn. Because that's how long it took for the Cougars to hit 10 points. That said, if you tuned in a couple of minutes late you might think that BYU is the most inept basketball team in the nation. You might also think that Long Beach has one of the nation's best teams.
As the game played out it didn't really make sense; this was some bad dream basketball. Appropriate, considering it ended at 1 a.m. local time.
The first couple of minutes were quintessential BYU basketball: up-and-down, high scoring and entertaining. The remainder of the game was the antithesis of BYU basketball. Amazingly, that's how they managed to stay in the game. Quietly stout defense (I say quiet because Long Beach State made BYU look so silly that it was hard to see any good on the Cougars' side of the ball) kept the Beach from pulling away. Specifically, BYU's bigs were altering shots.
While the 49ers frenetic athletes were flying through passing lanes, picking up seven first half steals and forcing BYU into 23 total turnovers for the game, they failed to extend their lead past 10 points in the first half.
It seemed like the 49ers were blowing the game out. BYU went scoreless for nine-plus minutes. Long Beach State had a 16-0 run. Noah Blackwell was draining threes and Nick Faust was throwing down thunderous dunks. The Walter Pyramid wasn't exactly packed — 10:45 p.m. start times are rough — but the energy was palpable even though the ESPN telecast.
Fouls piled up on BYU. The 49ers defensive rotation was so good that they drew charges seemingly every time BYU drove into the lane. Chase Fischer fouled out. Kyle Davis finished with four fouls while Kyle Collinsworth and Jamal Aytes (making his BYU debut) finished with three each.
Long Beach State was controlling the game, just as they did in the first half. But all of the sudden BYU was off on a 12-4 run. With 5:11 left it was a one possession game. 20 seconds later it was tied at 59.
Nothing changed, other than the lead.
Long Beach played with incredible energy for nearly 1 a.m. on a school night. BYU's bigs continued blocking shots and grabbing boards. After a sloppy 35 minutes we were given the most exciting awful game of the year.
BYU was cursed all game at the free throw line (8-21 from the stripe) which prevented the Cougars from taking the lead late. But at the end of the game the curse transferred to the Beach.
Nick Faust missed two free throws with three seconds remaining, two free throws that would have made it a three point game. His second miss, an intentional miss, was waved off for a lane violation on his own team. This game wasn't going to end like that, not from the charity stripe.
It would end how it had been played out. BYU had two chances to inbound the ball, two chances to win the game with any made basket. And Long Beach, as they had so many times tonight, today, whatever time it was, cut into the passing lane. First it was LMU transfer Gabe Levin, who knocked the inbounds pass out of bounds. Then, with a second left, a mass of 49ers collided to knock the second inbounds to the floor.
The 49ers move to 2-0 on the season. They'll have many, many more chances for more upsets. Next up is Seton Hall.
BYU falls to 1-1 on the season. They'll have many more chances for bad losses. Next up? A non-D1 program, Adams State.