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Men's Basketball: 'Niners handle 'Eaters

UCI can't hang with Long Beach State, which appears on its way to Big West three-peat.

January 26, 2013|By Barry Faulkner
  • UC Irvine's Will Davis goes up for a shot against Long Beach State's Mike Caffey during a Big West Conference game.
UC Irvine's Will Davis goes up for a shot against… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

LONG BEACH — Big West Conference men's basketball coaches universally released a sigh of relief earlier this month when it was announced that San Diego State would not be joining the conference after all, choosing instead to remain in the Mountain West.

But when it comes to the mountaintop of Big West regular-season domination, Long Beach State remains a formidable and perennial front-runner to plant the flag.

Coach Dan Monson's first-place 49ers (11-8, 7-1 in conference) added UC Irvine Coach Russell Turner to their list of admirers Saturday after they secured an 81-59 triumph that was still in doubt midway through the second half.

But after junior reserve guard Chris McNealy scored seven straight UCI points to pull the visitors(10-11, 4-4) within 52-46 with 11:37 left, the 49ers closed on a 29-13 run to claim their 21st consecutive conference win at Walter Pyramid.

"They are a good team," Turner said of the two-time-defending Big West regular-season champions, who appear well on their way to a three-peat. "They've got high-level players at every spot. That's one thing that's different about them in our league."

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Four 49ers scored in double figures, including senior Larry Ennis, who sank five three-pointers in the second half on his way to a team-high 17 points, after being held scoreless in the opening 20 minutes.

Ennis finished six for nine from the field and four of his three-pointers were at least NBA range.

Dan Jennings, a 6-foot-9 junior transfer from West Virginia, had 14 points on six-of-eight shooting from the field, while adding seven rebounds for the winners.

Keala King, a junior guard who transferred from Arizona State, finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while junior Tony Freeland, a DePaul transfer, had a modest five points, three rebounds and three assists.

Long Beach reserves Peter Pappageorge and Kris Gulley, combined for 20 points on five-of-seven shooting from three-point range.

And, oh by the way, UCLA transfer Tyler Lamb will be eligible for the 2014 conference season.

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