By Jarrod Castillo Staff Writer
Graphic by Francisco Valladares /Athletics Editor
Capping off their four-game home stand against the best team in the conference, Long Beach State (13-15, 7-5 Big West) fell to UC Santa Barbara’s Gauchos (20-5, 9-2 Big West) 80-70, putting up a 1-3 record before heading on the road for their next three games.
Although freshman guard Edon Maxhuni and senior forward Gabe Levin led a comeback effort in the second half, it was a case of too little, too late as a 21-point deficit was too much to overcome.
The first half was not a pretty one for the Beach: they shot 5-29 including 0-14 from 3-point land and amounted to an unsightly 17 percent shooting from the field. The Gauchos defense also forced eight Beach turnovers for 11 points, which allowed them to go on a 24-8 run, spanning from the 11:37 mark to the end of the half.
“They made us make tough plays,” LBSU head coach Dan Monson said of Santa Barbara’s defense. “They really shrunk the court and really plugged up Gabe [Levin] and Temi[dayo Yussuf].”
At the end of the first , the Beach trailed 37-17. Senior forward Leland King II led the way with 12 points and nine rebounds for the Gauchos, while Levin had eight points and six rebounds for the Beach.
The second half was more of the same for the Beach as it appeared that their defense was left in the locker room. Although LBSU started making baskets, they also gave up almost as many as they made, and little to no headway was made.
However, Maxhuni would do his best to bring the team back from the deficit. After being held scoreless in the first half, he went off for 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting.
“I just tried to forget the first half and started playing the second half like I know,” he said. “We should play...the first half better, so it won’t be 20 points down.”
Not to be outdone, Levin also did his part to cut into the deficit with 17 points of his own in the half. The duo’s offensive explosion helped the Beach cut the deficit to six, 74-68, with 1:15 left in the half.
That would be the closest the Beach would get, as a dunk by sophomore guard Christian Terrell pushed the lead back up to 10 with less than 20 seconds left, sealing the game for the Gauchos.
Levin led all scorers with 25 points and pulled down 14 rebounds for his second double-double of the season. King II paced the Gauchos with 20 points and 15 rebounds.
After the loss, Levin says that with a three-game road trip ahead, the team is going to try to get better and gain the momentum needed for the Big West Tournament.
“Take it one game at a time and just keep working hard and good things will happen,” Levin said.
The Beach embark on their road trip on Thursday, Feb. 22 at 9 p.m., playing against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors.