The scoreboard claims that the Gaucho men’s basketball team lost to Long Beach State (8-9 overall, 2-2 conference) on Thursday night at the Pyramid, but their season-high 29 turnovers on 32.7 percent shooting suggests they lost to themselves.
After winning three straight conference games going into Thursday’s matchup against the preseason Big West favorites, the Gauchos (8-7 overall, 3-2 conference) ended the first half of play down by two, but were outscored 35-17 in the second half to lose the game 67-47.
“We just didn’t show up tonight. We weren’t the same team that we usually are,” Gaucho sophomore forward Orlando Johnson said. “We missed a lot of easy shots, we didn’t get back on defense, it just didn’t work out.”
Johnson was the only Gaucho to score in double digits, scoring 12, grabbing four rebounds and continuing his season-long streak of double-digit scoring. Sophomore forward Jaimé Serna pulled down a team-leading seven rebounds. The team had seven total assists in the game compared to the 49ers’ 16. While Long Beach had 20 turnovers, their assist-turnover ratio was about 1:1 compared to the Gauchos 1:4.
“Our lack of toughness with the basketball was disgusting,” Gaucho Head Coach Bob Williams said. “If you’re a Division I basketball player, you have to take care of the basketball.”
Three Long Beach starters scored double digits. Long Beach forward T.J. Robinson grabbed 12 of his team’s 38 rebounds and scored 19 points on 8-13 on 61.5 percent shooting. Point guard Casper Ware scored 13 and had five assists, while sophomore Larry Anderson had 10 points.
“Those three guys really carried them,” Williams said. “Robinson on the glass was a beast. [But] we made a lot of [their] guys look good in transition.”
Midway through the first half, UCSB led 17-9. However, Long Beach went on a 23-9 run to take a 32-27 lead. UCSB senior guard James Powell hit a three-pointer at the first half buzzer to bring the score to 32-30, which should have been a momentum booster for the Gauchos in the second.
After a Serna jumper to start the second half tied the game at 32, the Gauchos missed five straight shots after grabbing four consecutive offensive rebounds, missing their chance to take the lead. Instead, Long Beach went on a 12-0 run and the Gauchos never recovered.
“I wouldn’t really say it was their defense,” Powell said. “I would say it was not really preparing the way we needed to. We get a couple of wins [before this game], and we [got] on our high horses rather than staying hungry.”
The Gauchos only have one day to mull over this loss. They play UC Riverside for the second time this season on Saturday at the Thunderdome at 7 p.m.
“We’re looking forward to going back to the gym for practice,” Johnson said. “[We’re going to be] watching a lot of film and just try to get this win at home because we need it.”
In seasons past, UC Riverside has been the Big West punching bag. Not under Head Coach Jim Wooldridge, who was once an assistant coach under Tim Floyd for the Chicago Bulls. The Gauchos narrowly defeated the Highlanders 57-53 in their last meeting on Jan. 4, and Williams believes that Riverside might bring their best to the Thunderdome.
“Saturday’s a big game for us,” he said. “I think they’re gonna come in really hungry. And you know how sweet it is to play someone that quick after you lost to them.”
In their last meeting, Gaucho forward James Nunnally posted 19 points and 10 rebounds, leading all Gauchos. Johnson scored 17. Although the Highlanders have lost their last two games to Big West foes Cal State Fullerton (7-7 overall, 2-2 conference) and UC Irvine (8-9 overall, 2-3 conference), they beat Long Beach State on the road 64-55.
“Hopefully we get it back at home,” Powell said. “Usually teams look at Riverside like it’s a game they’re gonna win, but that’s not the way it is.”
The game against Riverside is the first of a three-game homestand of Big West matchups for the Gauchos.