GAME NOTES: The Long Beach State 49ers are riding some momentum into SRC Arena for their Big West Conference bout against the UC Riverside Highlanders on Thursday.
Long Beach leads the all-time series 28-10 and has won the last six match-ups. The team has not lost in Riverside since the 2010 season.
Not only do the 49ers have a streak in the all-time series, they have also won their last three games to improve to 8-8 overall and 4-1 in Big West action. Long Beach State edged Hawaii, 76-72, on Saturday as sophomore guard Mike Caffey hit a go-ahead jumper with two seconds remaining before the team made a stop on the Warriors' final possession. In addition to coming up clutch, Caffey has done a tremendous job running the point for Long Beach State as his 12.4 points and 4.3 assists per outing are a big reason the team is sitting at the top of the league's standings.
Caffey is second on the squad in scoring behind James Ennis, who is netting 16.6 points per contest on 44.6 percent shooting from the floor in addition to his team-best 6.9 rpg. Dan Jennings is chipping in 10.1 points and 6.2 boards per game, but the 49ers are a much improved team since transfers Tony Freeland (9.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Keala King (8.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.2 apg) have been added to the mix five games ago. During that span, Long Beach State is producing 74.2 points per game.
The 49ers will be in good shape if they meet that mark, as they take on a UC Riverside squad that ranks last in the Big West in scoring offense with only 60.8 ppg. The Highlanders came up just short on Saturday as they fell, 71-69, at Cal State Fullerton to drop to a 4-12 overall record. The setback was the second in a row and lowered UC Riverside to 1-3 in the league standings. Although none are standing out as the go-to-guy, Chris Patton, Chris Harriel, and Josh Fox are all scoring in double-figures with scoring averages just above 10 ppg. Fox is also pulling down a team-best 6.3 rebounds per tilt.
UC Riverside's loss to the Titans was a heartbreaker as Fullerton's Kwame Vaughn drilled a jump shot at the buzzer to conclude the affair. The Highlanders had an excellent shooting display as they hit 62.2 percent of their field goal tries, but they were unable to overcome an 8-of-15 showing at the free throw line or 23 turnovers.
Long Beach State is beginning to mesh as a unit at a perfect time. Caffey has better weapons surrounding him than any other point guard in the conference with Ennis and King, who led Arizona State in scoring a season ago. UC Riverside will need to stay hot to have any chance of keeping up with the visitors.
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