Tomorrow will bring one of the more interesting nonconference games for the Irish this year. The 49ers are in town, a young but experienced squad that has been picked to win the Big West. Apparently Long Beach called up Coach Brey to get this on the schedule, so they are surely not lacking in confidence.
Against Pepperdine last night, the 49ers came back strong with a big second half to blow open what had been a close contest. Though they really struggled on the boards (30 rebounds to Pepperdine's 47), Long Beach won the game with solid defense. 18 turnovers forced and a 31% shooting percentage allowed.
So who are these guys?
#21 Larry Anderson is the team's high scorer so far. A 6'6" wing with a deft shooting touch, the sophomore has averaged 19 points in his two games this year. Last season, he shot 40% from beyond the arc. He and fellow classmate T.J. Robinson were the most efficient scorers on the team a year ago.
#15 Robinson is the closest thing Long Beach has to a post player. He is the tallest starter at 6'7" and averages 10.5 rebounds per contest, but is very skinny at 210 pounds. Harangody should have a field day one on one in the post, so expect lots of switching and double teams tomorrow night.
#22 Casper Ware is the third sophomore starter on the team. A pass-first point guard, Ware dished out 6 assists last night but finished with only 3 points to show for himself. His is small (5'9", 170 lbs.) but quick enough to give more physical point guards (Jonathan Peoples) trouble.
#2 Eugene Phelps and #33 Stephan Gilling round out the starting five. Phelps is yet another sophomore and has only played 15 minutes per contest. Talk about bigtime foul trouble. 9 fouls in 30 minutes on the floor so far. Gilling is the old man of the group, a fifth-year senior who has been a great deep threat in the past. Coach Dan Monson has to hope that the Colorado State transfer will get back the shooting touch he displayed at Fort Collins.
Monson, the guy who put Gonzaga on the map with its Elite Eight campaign in 1999, really has Long Beach State headed in the right direction. After 6 wins in '08, he improved to 15-14 a year ago and is poised to take the next step with a great core of underclassmen. His last three recruiting classes have included one three-star player a piece (Anderson, Jules Montgomery, and Jacob Thomas), a nice haul for such a small program. Even though he didn't get it done at Minnesota, you have to think this guy will get another shot at a higher level very soon.