MBK: Long Beach’s inside game too much for UCSB

UCSB couldn’t match the vertical game or the quickness of Long Beach State, but the Gauchos were battling and staying in the ballgame against a 49er team that dunked on them 10 times in Saturday’s Big West clash at the Thunderdome.

In the end, though, it was the little things that plagued the Gauchos in a 77-70 loss in the regionally televised game.

UCSB made just 14 of 23 free throws and had some lapses on defense in critical moments down the stretch.

“I feel four or five times in a row we just lost our man baseline and they either threw an alley-oop or just dunked it down,” Gaucho sharpshooter Kyle Boswell said. “In that crucial part of the game, we’re trying to make a run. We cut it to three several times and they just answered every time. We can’t have those mental lapses where you just lose your guy.

“We guarded the perimeter pretty well, then they’d go to the high post and there would be miscommunication. We got to work on that because that’s unacceptable.”

UCSB coach Bob Williams pointed to the defensive lapses and missed free throws as differences in the game.

“Those are the type of plays you got to make if your going to win this game,” said coach Williams.

Boswell hit two of three free throws to make it a 67-63 game with 2:59 left. UCSB then went into a zone defense. Tony Freeland of the 49ers got free inside for a dunk.

The Gauchos (5-9, 1-2) cut the deficit to three (69-66) when Michael Bryson banked in a straightaway 3-pointer. They went back to a man defense, but Long Beach guard Mike Caffey beat his man on the dribble, drove down the lane and scored on a floater to put the 49ers back on top 71-66 with 1:48 to go.

Caffey played an outstanding game, scoring 19 points with nine rebounds, and five assists. He also helped hold Boswell to one basket in the second half.

Al Williams scored inside to make it a three-point game again, and the Gauchos went back to a zone defense. Again, Long Beach (6-8, 2-1) got the ball inside, with Dan Jennings dunking for a 73-68 advantage.

“They were killing us off the dribble,” coach Williams said of the decision to go to a zone. “We went to a zone to try to get them more perimeter oriented and get them out of their rhythm bouncing it. They were patient enough and moved the ball well enough they hurt us with the zone, also.”

Al Williams got the ball inside on UCSB’s next possession and he powered inside and drew the fifth foul against Jennings. Williams, however, missed both free throws with 49 seconds left in the game.

The Gauchos got a break when Keala King missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Long Beach came up with a huge play. Freeland blocked a shot by Bryson, raced down court and took a pass from Ennis for a dunk, giving the 49ers a 75-68 lead with 18 seconds left.

Despite the loss, coach Williams said there were some good things to take away from the game.

“I’m encouraged by the fight in this group,” he said. “I’m encouraged by the way they come back. I’m encouraged by Michael (Bryson) hitting some shots. That’s a big step for him. He’s been in a slump. We need to get his confidence up. We need another weapon offensively. And, we know it’s extremely important to keep Al out of foul trouble. We have to have him to make a run. We have to have him.”

Al Williams was bitten by the foul bug again, and Long Beach State took full advantage in the first half. Williams picked up his second personal at the 12:36 mark and the 49ers promptly went on an 8-2 run to erase an 18-12 deficit and tie the score at 20-20.

Williams came back into the game and quickly returned to the bench when he picked up his third foul on a dubious call. Jennings plowed into Williams and the Gaucho big man got hit with the foul.

Jennings made one free throw and the 49ers scored the next three baskets, one on a thundering reverse dunk by Ennis, giving them a 27-20 advantage. Boswell ended UCSB’s scoring drought with a 3-pointer at 4:27. Boswell then drew an offensive foul by the 49ers and came back and hit another trey to pull UCSB to within one point, 27-26.

The Gauchos, however, couldn’t maintain the momentum. They committed a couple of turnovers and missed the front end of a one-and-one. Long Beach responded with a basket by Jennings, a tip-in by Ennis and a 3-pointer by Ennis to go up 36-26.

Bryson buried a 3-pointer for the Gauchos, but Long Beach countered with a lob dunk by Ennis. The 49ers ended the half on a 40-foot shot by Caffey at the buzzer.

Ennis scored 18 points, Freeland added 15 and Jennings tallied 13 points for Long Beach, which shot 54 percent from the floor (32-59)

Al Willams led UCSB with 16 points, followed by Bryson with 15, Boswell with 14 and Taran Brown with 11. The Gauchos shot 46 percent, making 24 of 52.