GAME NOTES: Shooting for their first three-game win streak of the season, the Long Beach State 49ers get together with the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors in Big West Conference play at the Pyramid on Saturday.
Since losing to Cal Poly on the road, 79-73, back on Jan. 3, the 49ers have responded with a pair of conference wins in order to move to 3-1 in Big West play. Following a 77-70 victory against UC Santa Barbara last weekend, LBSU secured a 78-69 win over Cal State Northridge three nights ago as well.
As for the Rainbow Warriors, a squad that has come over from the Western Athletic Conference, they began their new league slate with three consecutive wins against the likes of CSUN, Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside, but on Wednesday night the team was dropped by UC Irvine, 68-64. The game against the Anteaters was just the second on the mainland for Hawaii through the first half of the campaign.
LBSU owns a 6-5 advantage in the all-time series between these two teams, taking four of the five games played on the mainland over the years.
With a number of changes made to the starting lineup, the Rainbow Warriors thought they were making themselves stronger against UCI but it just wasn't the case. However, one of the steady constants for Hawaii has been Christian Standhardinger and he did respond with another double-double consisting of 12 points and 13 rebounds, while Vander Joaquim and Brandon Spearman contributed 15 and 12 points, respectively, as the team shot just 35.6 percent from the floor and was guilty of 16 turnovers. In the last four games the Warriors have had a different leading scorer each time out, but overall the top man remains the same with Standhardinger checking in with 15.5 ppg and 8.0 rpg. Joaquim (14.4 ppg) and Isaac Fotu (10.8 ppg) give Hawaii two more potent rebounders who combine for almost 16.0 rpg, giving the team an advantage of 8.6 rpg through 15 games.
In a game that featured eight ties and 15 lead changes, not to mention a scoring lead that swung 20 points, LBSU survived despite turning the ball over 19 times. The hosts saved themselves by shooting 52.0 percent from the floor, holding Cal State Northridge to 5-of-16 beyond the arc and forcing the Matadors into 20 turnovers of their own. Deng Deng came off the bench to post a team-best 18 points for LBSU, hitting on 5-of-12 shots behind the 3-point line, followed by Mike Caffey with 14 points, Keala King 13 and James Ennis 10 in the win. Ennis is typically among the leading scorers for the 49ers, which is why he leads the group in scoring with 17.0 ppg, adding a team-best 6.9 rpg to his resume as well. Caffey accounts for another 12.0 ppg, the only player to have started every game, yet he is shooting just 36.0 percent from the floor and 52.8 percent at the free-throw line which isn't healthy at all.
Hawaii is clearly more comfortable playing at home, something that has been the case for several years now. Perhaps the Rainbow Warriors can bounce back after the loss three nights ago, but taking out the 49ers at the Pyramid will be no easy feat.
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