“I thought we played well, with a lot of energy and purpose,” said UCI Coach Pat Douglass, who was one of a dozen coaches from both teams who wore white athletic shoes instead of the normal dress footwear as part of the National Assn. of Basketball Coaches’ joint effort with the American Cancer Society to raise awareness and funds for the fight against cancer.
“I thought [6-foot-7 senior center] Darren Fells was big inside and proved to be difficult to match up with.”
Don Monson, Long Beach State’s first-year coach, was even more decisive when discussing his team’s shortcomings.
“I thought our want-to was there, but we were just overmatched, physically,” said Monson, who saw his team absorb its fifth straight loss, the last three by an average margin of 25.7 points.
Perhaps even more impressive than the first-half performance that allowed UCI to open a 38-21 lead, was its ability to sustain its defensive intensity in the final 20 minutes.
UCI, which had surrendered second-half leads earlier this season in losses to Tennessee of Chatanooga, Utah, San Diego, Sam Houston State and South Carolina, never let the 49ers come closer than 15.
Long Beach State, which strung together a 7-0 run to pull within 29-20, with 3:40 left in the first half, never scored consecutive field goals in the final 20 minutes. Further, the 49ers scored more than two points in a row only twice. They netted four free throws to pull within 53-36 with 11:15 remaining, and converted a three-pointer to follow two foul shots to trim the deficit to 62-46 with 4:47 remaining.