Preview of Long Beach State

The 49ers come to Pauley Pavilion Tuesday night for the tenth meeting overall between the schools. Long Beach State is a struggling program, but they've improved over a year ago, and are coming off a win Saturday...

The 49ers are 1-2, coming off a 6-21 record from last season, haven't had a winning record in four years, just ended a 12-game losing streak, and are breaking in six new players, so you wouldn't think they'd be much of a threat to UCLA tonight at Pauley Pavilion.

While that's probably true, Long Beach State won't be as much of a pushover as you might imagine. They're quite improved over a year ago. So far this season, they got blown out against Charlotte, 93-64, to open the season on the road. But then they played a talented but erratic Pepperdine team tough, losing just 82-78. On Saturday they beat lowly Sacramento State handily, 87-63.

They're a team that should continue to improve as the season goes on, working in so many new players who are transfers, and could manage a winning record by the end of the season.

Their most productive player has been 6-11 senior center Anthony Coleman. Coleman, originally from Arron Afflalo's same high school, Compton Centennial, first went to Xavier. He transferred in the middle of his redshirt sophomore season to Long Beach State, wasn't eligible until last December as a junior, and then missed all but two games a season ago with a stress fracture in his ankle. He's very thin, weighing about 215 pounds, and isn't a banger, but is skilled, comfortable shooting 10-18 footers away from the basket. He scored a career-high 26 points against Sac State, and is averaging 18 points and 7 rebounds a game. He can struggle against guys who are as tall as him and bulkier or more athletic. With UCLA you have both – one bulkier in Michael Fey, and one more athletic in Ryan Hollins. His game will be to try to draw UCLA's bigs away from the basket.

After Coleman, LBSU doesn't have much size. Their back-up center is 6-10 junior Sam Byrd, a JC transfer, but he weighs only 190 pounds and plays about 10 minutes a game.

Starting with Coleman on the front line has been 6-6 junior Shawn Hawkins, another JC transfer. Hawkins, at about 225 pounds, has been the guy protecting the paint primarily, and has been decent at getting points inside. He's the grandson of former NBA great Connie Hawkins.

Getting most of the minutes at the small forward position has been 6-4 senior Cody Pearson, a well-built, tough defender without much offense. To punch up their perimeter scoring, Long Beach State Head Coach Larry Reynolds subbed 6-3 junior Louis Darby into the starting lineup in place of 6-2 junior guard Jibril Hodges. Hodges (the son of former NBAer Craig Hodges), a starter from a year ago, is more of a combo guard. He started off the season shooting pretty poorly so they went with Darby, who's averaging 13 points a game, against Sacramento State. Darby is a nice athlete with an inconsistent jump shot.

Starting at the point is a jitterbug, 5-10 sophomore Kevin Houston. He made the Big West All-Conference freshman team a year ago when he started as a freshman. He's a live-and-die kind of player – you either live well with him when he's playing well and making good decisions, or you die by him when he's turning the ball over and making bad decisions. His quickness, ability to break down defenders and find seams to penetrate could be a challenge for UCLA's guards.

Long Beach State has a considerably thin bench, both in its frontcourt and backcourt. After Byrd and Hodges, its primary help is 6-7 sophomore Travon Free, who has an okay feel around the basket and is pretty long and a decent rebounder. Chris Jenkins, another thin, 6-8 senior, also comes off the bench to help with giving the starters a breather. Keion Kindred, a 6-4 guard who transferred from a JC, might be someone who could get increased playing time tonight, too.

But Long Beach State gives the majority of its minutes to just six guys, which makes them vulnerable to getting worn down. They are a decently athletic team, and Houston and Hodges will try to push the ball when they can. They are particularly sloppy, though, averaging 19 turnovers a game.

Overall, Long Beach State, despite having improved from a season ago, doesn't match up well against the Bruins. UCLA's size inside should dominate the game, on both sides of the floor. The 49ers have some quickness in their backcourt, which UCLA has struggled defending so far this season, but they're undisciplined and turnover-prone. They're not a great defensive team, allowing too many points in the paint.

You can't reasonably believe that Long Beach State would beat UCLA tonight for the first time in 10 meetings. In fact, after seeing Western Illinois (who almost beat Indiana last week), the 49ers are the worst team on UCLA's schedule this season. If there's a game that should be a blow out for UCLA, it'd be this one. But Long Beach State isn't as bad as you might think, and UCLA hasn't had a blow-out in what seems like decades.

Long Beach State 69

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