By Jarrod Castillo, Athletics Editor
Whenever anyone plays basketball, it takes a while to adjust to the game. For Long Beach State (2-10) sophomore forward Naomi Hunt, though, it would take her about two minutes and 44 seconds.
During that span in the second quarter, she would outscore GCU (2-7) 11-7, taking the momentum away from the Lopes.
“Man, it feels good to get a win,” Long Beach State head coach Jeff Cammon said.
In the first quarter, the Beach started a new lineup, with junior forward Aaryon Green and sophomore guard Bria Rice taking sophomore guard Shanaijah Davison and Hunt’s place. This resulted in more defense and rebounds at the expense of offense.
“Consistently, teams have kind of [gone] on runs offensively so we decided to go with a more defensive lineup,” Cammon said about the change. “I feel like setting the tone early defensively and on the boards is really key for this team.”
That resulted in the Beach having only nine points on 4-of-15 shooting (26 percent) in the first quarter. Davison scored six of Long Beach State’s nine points, providing the team with its only scoring threat off the bench.
With Davison providing the scoring in the first, it was Hunt’s turn in the second. After averaging 6.6 points on 30 percent shooting in her last five games, Hunt exploded for 14 points in the second, outscoring GCU herself, 14-10.
“I just have to stay confident in myself,” Hunt said. “I was thinking, like, ‘My percentages are lower than last year,’ and I kept missing. When I stop thinking about that, then I feel more confident about myself and then I will have more games like this.”
At the end of the first half, Hunt led all scorers with 14 points while freshman guard Laura Piera and forward Taylor Caldwell had seven each for GCU.
Continuing the pressure, Long Beach State pushed the lead to nine, 42-33, with less than four minutes to go in the third. However, as GCU attempted to whittle the lead, they left one person open, leading to easy layups.
As such, the Beach had an eight-point lead, 49-41, going into the fourth quarter as they shot 57 percent (8-of-14) from the field.
Sensing that the game was slipping away, GCU scored four quick points to make it a four-point game, 49-45, with just over a minute gone in the fourth quarter. Long Beach State responded by going on an 8-2 run to push the lead to 11, 57-46, with 3:30 left in the game.
That run would seal the game for the Beach and gave them their second win of the season, with the 57-50 victory over GCU.
Hunt led all scorers with 20 points with freshman forward Jasmine Hardy pitching in 11 points of her own off the bench. Additionally, freshman forward Kianna Hamilton-Fisher had a solid all-around game as she amassed five points, six rebounds, three assists and four steals in 34 minutes.
“I just thought about all the energy because my shots weren’t falling at first so if I kept the energy high, everyone would get riled up and the offense would just fall by itself,” Hamilton-Fisher said.
Although last season and this season are off to very similar starts, Cammon says that the results will come sooner rather than later.
“As long as these young ladies continue to believe and continue to work, I think you’ll see a similar run. I think it’s going to happen a lot sooner than last year but we have a lot of work to do and we have to continue to grow, ” Cammon concluded.
For GCU, senior forward AJ Cephas had a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds as the only double-figure scorer.
Long Beach State will be back at the Walter Pyramid to face New Mexico in the final home game of the year at 2 p.m. on Dec. 29.