Story by Alejandro Ramos Intern, Photos by Kaila-Marie Hardaway Managing Editor
Long Beach State defeated Cal State Dominguez Hills 87 to 71 in the annual homecoming game. The triumph extends the Beach’s homecoming victory streak to 7 wins. On top of that, this makes it the fifth straight game in which they won by 10 or more points. At this point, the outcome might as well be considered tradition.
Any other year, it wouldn’t mean much that the Beach won so soundly and convincingly. This year, however, it means a whole lot considering all the roster changes the team went through over the summer. It’s a new team that’s ready to take on a new season, starting with this game.
(What follows is an extremely extensive analysis in which I extrapolate possible outcomes for the team based on one game. Enjoy.)
A Game of Two Halves
The first half showed us a team that was just plain fun to watch. The ball flowed smoothly as it moved around to every player on the team. It seemed as if everybody was engaged and having fun setting each other up to score. After trading shots with Dominguez Hills, the Beach managed to stifle them and finish the half, leading 52-36.
The second half showed a different side of the team. LBSU had a slow start coming back and Dominguez Hills took advantage of it, at one point going on a 12-0 run. The home team was surprisingly unfazed, despite their struggles on offense and the constant barrage from their opponents. Eventually, the Beach got it going again and managed to extend the lead back to double digits with nine minutes left, effectively ending the game.
“We’re resilient. We could have got down,” said senior forward Gabe Levin. “They had a comeback and we stopped it.”
The Return of Levin
Levin, who sat out most of last year’s season due to a knee injury, had an outstanding game. The senior looked confident in his knee as he ran across the court and leapt to grab rebounds. He was efficient throughout, putting up 19 points and 8 rebounds.
You wouldn’t even think he was coming back from an injury with the way he was playing. There was a play in which a shot bounced off the hoop and began to fall back down. Levin, who was on the opposite side of the hoop, leapt across the way and tipped the ball into the hoop in one motion. It was the kind of play that’s fitting for a comeback.
“It felt great to be out there,” said Levin. “I’m just happy to actually be on the court again.”
The player of the night, however, was junior guard Deishaun Booker. A fresh transfer from the Juco level, Booker made a strong case for himself as the new starting point guard. He was steady bringing up the ball and took his time to look for the right pass. His six recorded assists don’t properly convey the impact he had on the ball movement when he was on the court.
On top of that, Booker was the second-leading scorer with 18 points, despite only making two field goals. His aggressive drives, coupled with Dominguez Hills’s affinity for fouling, earned him several trips to the line, where he made 13 of 14 free throws.
“I wanted to be just a little more aggressive,” said Booker.
The rest of the team seemed to flourish with Booker at the helm. The guard stated that one of the things the team emphasized coming into the season was looking for guys getting open. This emphasis, coupled with the added ball movement, worked for the team.
“We’re a very unselfish team,” said senior forward Gabe Levin. “I feel everybody that played tonight scored.”
Levin is right. Every player who set foot on the court for the Beach scored at least once. Three starters hit double digits and the bench as a whole contributed 23 points. It’s safe to say that this team is a democracy now.
There is a caveat to all this. The team made most of their points in the paint but shot poorly from beyond the arc. This may lead to struggles when up against teams with sharpshooters who can take advantage of the three-point shot. For now, however, they can rely on the talents of Booker to set up interior specialists like Levin and Temidayo Yussuf, who is set to return in the coming weeks.
In short, this is a team that can throw punches with ease and roll with them when they come. This is encouraging, especially since this is only their second outing together. Their first, a charity game for fire relief against CSU Bakersfield, ended in a loss.
What’s next? That’s a difficult question to answer. The homecoming game is not a great measure of the team’s success. Last year, for example, the Beach beat Caltech by almost 50 points but went on to struggle during conference play.
If nothing else, this game was a decent test run for a team that’s still coming together. There were moments that the players looked lackadaisical, especially during the second half. As a result, they gave up a lot of rebounds and turned the ball over a few too many times.
They will need to address these shortcomings as they go through the upcoming slate of non-conference games, which features the likes of Oregon State, Michigan State and Texas A&M. These games will challenge the Beach, but will ultimately give them a chance to sharpen themselves before starting Big West Conference games in January.