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Trojans Host Long Beach State On Dec. 15; Plus Final Thoughts On TCU

By Rich Ruben

The 8-2 Trojans play a light schedule this week and next week during finals, as they’ll play just two games, starting with Long Beach State on Sunday. The Long Beach State “Beach” (the new official nickname seems a bit redundant) are 3-7, having already lost to UCLA (by four in the season opener), Arizona and Stanford. Their best win is one point victory over Providence. After Sunday, SC is off until playing LSU on Saturday, Dec. 21 at the Staples Center.

A Look Back At The Last Seconds Of The TCU Win

A couple things stood out in the final seconds which I haven’t covered before; both were decisions made by TCU’s coach Jamie Dixon. TCU’s center Kevin Samuel made the tying basket with 8 seconds left and was fouled. Dixon called his last time out before the free throw to set his defense. The Trojans were out of time outs, but got the chance to set up a play as a result of Dixon’s decision. Samuel, a terrible free throw shooter, missed and Nick Rakocevic grabbed the rebound and passed to Ethan Anderson who drove the length of the court. Ethan’s miss was tipped in by Nick with .2 seconds left. Calling a late timeout to set the defense backfired here.

After Nick’s basket, the officials stopped play to check how much time was left. This stoppage allowed both teams to set their strategy. The clock was left at 2/10 second. By rule, a player cannot catch a pass and shoot in less than 3/10ths, so TCU’s only chance was a length of the court pass to the basket and a tip-in. SC had 6’10” Isaiah Mobley on the base line in the face of the inbound passer. Curiously, TCU had a player in the back court. When the official started play, the TCU player in the backcourt ran into Mosley before the ball was passed in, trying to get a foul call and two free throws. It didn’t work, but given the circumstances, it was a sound strategy.

Long Beach State Preview

The Beach comes into the game shooting 45.3% from the field and 35.8% from three, slightly better than SC. The  Trojans are making 44.8% of their field goals and 34% of their threes. But those stats are the only similarities between the teams. Seven of the LBSU’s top eight scorers are guards, and they lack the inside size and talent to match the Trojans trio of Mobley, 6’11” Rakocevic and 6’9” Onyeka Okongwu. The Trojan bigs are making a high percentage of their shots and Big O and Nick are the leading scorers. The SC guards are coming off their best two games of the season.

Dan Monson is in his 13th season as Long Beach head coach. His overall record at Long Beach is 370-319. They finished 15-19 last year and fifth in the Big West Conference. This season they were picked to finish sixth in the nine team league. They have a lot of new faces, and their leading returning scorer from last year is playing less minutes.

Monson has had an interesting career. Many may not remember that he was the head coach at Gonzaga when the Zags became a national power. He was the coach in Spokane for two seasons. His second team finished 28-7 and won three games on the way to becoming the darlings of the NCAA tournament. This was the then little known school’s first time on the national stage. Monson left after that season to coach Minnesota, and his lead assistant Mark Few has been the coach at Gonzaga ever since and has created a national power.

Monson’s run at Minnesota was not particularly successful. He lasted eight seasons, but the Gophers had only one tournament appearance. After being let go, he moved to Long Beach, where his teams have won the Big West regular season three times and the conference tournament once and have made the NCAA Tournament one time.

Ten players for Long Beach average double figure minutes. 6’6” Chase Hunter is a transfer guard from Cerritos College and leads the team averaging 14.4 points on over 52% from the field and over 51% from three. Michael Carter III played a season at Washington, then transferred to South Dakota State where he red shirted, before landing in Long Beach. A 6’5” sophomore guard, Carter is averaging 13.3 ppg and 3.5 assists, but is also averaging 4.2 turnovers. (For comparison, Ethan Anderson averages 5.2 assists and 2.2 TOs). Carter is only shooting 36.7% from the field and 30% from three.

Colin Slater, a 6’1” junior guard, played two seasons at Tulane, though he only started 10 games. So far this year he is averaging 10.1 ppg while making almost 42% of his shots and 33% from three. The Beach’s top big man is 6’11” freshman Joshua Morgan. Morgan is making a very impressive 75% of his shots and is averaging 9 points and 5.6 boards.

Prediction

This is a game the Trojans should definitely win. Playing Long Beach now is good timing. The Beach does not have the size or talent to keep up with SC. Expect the Trojans to continue to get the ball inside, and for the bigs to take good shots or find open teammates. O and Nick are very good passers, and do a good job of looking for each other as well as shooters on the perimeter. We’ll see if the layoff impedes the recent improvement made by the Trojan guards on both ends. This game can be a building block and SC should win handily.