With all the big names back from last March, the Big West Conference got a rematch of its men’s basketball tournament title game on Tuesday, and Long Beach State made an emphatic statement.
Opening conference play with a 71-55 win over defending champion UC Santa Barbara, the 49ers (6-8) established themselves as the clear team to beat in the Big West.
Next up, Mott Gym.
Reigning Big West Player of the Week David Hanson and Cal Poly (4-7) host Long Beach State in the Mustangs’ conference opener tonight, the second half of a double-header with the women’s team.
The Cal Poly women host Santa Clara in a nonconference game at 4:30 p.m. The men are scheduled to tip off at 7.
“Both of those teams are good,” said Hanson, who watched the Gauchos and 49ers face off on ESPNU. “They’re both top teams in our conference. It was great to see them play, and we were able to get a feel for what Long Beach does and how their style of play was.”
Hanson is coming off his best collegiate game. Earning himself his first player of the week honor, the 6-foot-5 junior forward had 28 points and shot 6 of 10 from 3-point range in a 70-64 win at Pepperdine that snapped a six-game road losing streak and a four-game slide overall.
Even more notable, Hanson’s best effort came on the tails of a couple of his worst.
Hanson was just 1 for 10 on 3s in the Mustangs’ previous game, a 51-41 loss at Cal, and he was just 12 for 43 (.279) from the floor in the last three games of the losing streak, which also included matchups at UCLA and No. 7 San Diego State.
“Mentally in your head, you’re like ‘Man, it’s not going in,’ ” Hanson said, “but you have to be able to keep shooting the ball and know it’s going to go in. I got a lot of shots in rhythm, and after I made one or two, it just came a lot easier.“When you’re shooting the ball poorly, it’s easy to continue that way, and when you’re shooting well, it’s easy to do that the same as well.”
With 15.7 points per game, Hanson is the team’s leading scorer, closely followed by senior Shawn Lewis at 14.3 points per game. Junior center Will Donahue is averaging exactly 8.6 points and rebounds.
When he might have shied away from taking as many shots after going through a slump earlier in his career, the team can’t afford for any of its leading trio to let a poor performance damage his confidence.
Cal Poly coach Joe Callero: “I know that last year, David was not capable of responding to that kind of setback. You could see it in games. His growth from last year to this year is very relevant.
“He could have been gun shy, and we can’t have David, Shawn and Will Donahue not shoot. They have to be able to score every time they touch the ball.”
The Mustangs have had success limiting opponents to low scoring outputs, and they’ll have to continue the trend for a chance to win tonight.
Long Beach State has four starters averaging double digits, including point guard Casper Ware and forward T.J. Robinson, who combine for more than 29 points per game.
Even though the 49ers had lost four straight going into Tuesday’s showdown at UC Santa Barbara, they’d lost each of them with guard Larry Anderson out of the lineup with a broken hand.
Anderson returned to score a career-high 25 against the Gauchos and is fourth on the team in scoring with 11.7 points per game.
“He’s the glue to their team,” Callero said. “Casper Ware is excellent. T.J. Robinson is a bigtime Division I inside guy, a double-double machine, but I think Larry Anderson is the fix-it man.”
————MEN’S BASKETBALLFresno City 84, Cuesta 58The Cougars were outscored by 13 points in each half, falling to Fresno City at the Allen Hancock Classic in Santa Maria.Marc Hopkinson led Cuesta with 15 points and three assists, Westin Hill added 14 points, and Malte Kramer scored 13.Fresno City shot well from distance, going 13 of 24 from beyond the arc.
WRESTLINGCal Poly at Midlands ChampionshipsBoris Novachkov was the lone survivor of the winner’s bracket during the opening day in Evanston, Ill.
Filip Novachkov and Ryan DesRoches joined Boris Novachkov in the quarterfinals, but were sent to the wrestlebacks with losses.
Boris Novachkov (15-1), competing at 141 pounds, earned a 23-8 technical fall against Joel Trombly of Michigan State in the first round and beat Mike LeHolm of Eastern Michigan with a 14-5 major decision in the second round. He then edged Mike Koehnlein of Nebraska 3-1 to advance to a semifinal matchup with No. 3 seed Tyler Nauman of Pittsburgh.
Filip Novachkov drew a first-round bye at 133 and earned an 11-1 major decision against Dustin Reed of Oklahoma in the second round. He was knocked out of the quarterfinals by Scott Sentes of Central Michigan by fall in overtime and will take on No. 10 Nathan McCormick of Missouri in the wrestlebacks.
DesRoches earned his 13th fall of the season, pinning J.T. Rice of Eastern Michigan in 3:44 at 165. He earned an 8-5 decision win over Bekzod Abdurakhmonov of Clarion in the second round. DesRoches (24-3) dropped a 20-8 major decision to Jordan Burroughs of Nebraska in the quarterfinals, and will meet Aaron Janssen of Iowa in the wrestlebacks.
Tribune staff contributed to this report