The Long Beach State men’s basketball team will look to defend its Big West regular season title this year after finishing with a narrow one-game lead over Pacific last season. The 49ers were predicted to finish fourth this year in the preseason media poll, but a Big West worst 4-10 overall record may have other teams in the conference looking down on them.
Despite a poor start to the year, which included a nine-game losing streak against the second toughest non-conference schedule in the country, Long Beach has good reason to be excited. The 49ers ended their losing streak with a 72-71 win over USC, led by junior guard Tyler Lamb’s 20 points and three steals in his very first appearance as a transfer with his new team.
Two days later, Lamb followed his performance with another breakout game, scoring a career-high 29 points in a win over Montana State-Billings. With his first two efforts, Lamb earned Big West Player of the Week honors and solidified his spot in the starting lineup as one of the team’s go-to players.
A third straight win over the University of Nevada came after junior guard Mike Caffey hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. Caffey’s 16.9 points and 4.3 assists per game averages are both team highs.
Senior forward Dan Jennings anchors the middle with averages of 11 points and eight rebounds per game, while also averaging a team high 1.3 blocks per game.
Struggles on both sides of the ball have plagued the 49ers this year, as they have been outshot 39.6 percent to 45.1 percent from the field by their opponents. A meager 27.6 three-point percentage and 63.4 free throw percentage have not helped their struggles on offense, leading to their being outscored by an average of nearly eight points per game.
Long Beach has turned its year around with three wins in its last four outings as it tries to forget its early season nine-game losing streak. Led on the offense by reliable and explosive guard play, the 49ers will be looking to climb above their fourth place prediction and repeat as Big West regular season champs.
The 49ers begin conference play tomorrow against UC Irvine.
A version of this article appeared on page 10 of January 8, 2013′s print edition of The Daily Nexus.