Long Beach State wasn't expecting to play this postseason after dropping a heartbreaker in the Big West Tournament championship game to Hawaii on Saturday night. They weren't heavily involved in the NIT projections and they weren't going to accept an invitation to the CBI, CIT, Vegas 16, or any local rec league tournaments.
Head coach Dan Monson said he was watching a CSI: Miami rerun when he was informed that his team would need to plan a trip to Seattle for the next day. He hadn't seen the need to bother watching the NIT selection show.
But the Niners did make the NIT field and they sure acted like they belonged on Tuesday night against Washington. The Huskies are a young, but talent-laden team.
From the jump, it didn't seem as if either team was particularly interested in playing defense. The Beach went on a run defensively in the first half where they gave up three uncontested dunks on three straight possessions and it didn't really matter because they just kept scoring.
At one point in the first half, the 49ers were up by as many as 14 after another transition layup that Washington didn't get back to contest. The whole evening had a glorified pick-up game feel to it, but only on the court. Alaska Airlines Arena was filled to about half of its capacity, but their was a lot of energy coming from the Husky faithful.
After a quick five-point spurt by UW, Roschon Prince was fouled on the perimeter and Lorenzo Romar was promptly whistled for a technical foul. Four Beach free throws later and it was back to a 13-point lead with 2:26 left in the half. The Huskies responded with an 8-0 run before the half, cutting the 49er lead to just five at the break.
The second half was much of the same with the two teams going back and forth at a fast pace. There were 90 possessions in the game, the highest number either team has played in regulation all year.
The outcome wouldn't be decided until the final minute. The Beach took a 100-99 lead with 38 seconds left on a driving layup by point guard Justin Bibbins. One defensive stop and a couple of made free throws from there and the surprise NIT participants would be sitting pretty to advance to the second round.
But Bibbins got a bit too aggressive on the Husky inbound and immediately fouled 85 percent free throw shooter Andrew Andrews. Andrews would hit both free throws and just like that the 49ers saw their lead slip away and they wouldn't get it back.
It's a decision Bibbins would probably like to remake along with a couple of his seven turnovers he had on the night, but such is life. He also had 17 points on Tuesday and one game doesn't take away the season that he's had. He was the most improved player in the conference on his way to making second team All-Big West.
It marks the end of collegiate careers for Nick Faust and A.J. Spencer. They went out in style, combining for 42 points.
The Huskies were led by the trio of Andrews, Dejounte Murray, and Marquese Chriss. The three combined for 82 of the team's 107 points.