SCOUTING THE 49ERS
The Mountaineers – the listed road team in the tourney opener – face a progam quickly being built by head coach Dan Monson. In his third LBSU season, the former Gonzaga and Minnesota head coach has a trio of sophomores who last year led a team chosen eighth in the Big East to a 15-15 record, good for second place in the league. The nine-win improvement over the school's 2007-08 record was among the best turnarounds in program history and again showcased Monson's ability to quickly fit proper pieces. He took Gonzaga, then a shell of its current self, to the Elite Eight in 1999 and later resurrected a Minnesota program coming off NCAA sanctions. Monson went 6-25 his first year at Long Beach State, but managed a solid freshman class that included Larry Anderson. The hometown guard played well against Big West competition and was became the first 49er freshman to be named First-Team All-Big West in 20 years. Anderson, the league's Freshman of the Year, has led LBSU in scoring in three of its first four games. At 6-5, 200 pounds, the swingman will be the most physical ‘guard' WVU has faced thus far in the year, and the Mountaineers must find a way to counteract his drives and array of shots. Anderson has a better than two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio and scored 20 points with five assists, four turnovers, against Notre Dame.
He's the lone major guard threat, with forwards Eugene Phelps (6-6, 213 lbs.) and T.J. Robinson (6-8, 210 lbs.) providing the primary interior scoring and board work. Both players are long and average more than 10 points and eight rebounds. Phelps, at 10.5 points per game, is the more refined offensive player. He doesn't get nearly as many defensive rebounds as does Robinson, but he works well around the offensive glass and will continually follow shots. Phelps' 64.3 percent from the field is a product of hustle and a soft touch inside 12 to 15 feet. Robinson, an All-Big West preseason pick, can slash and gets to the line well. He is making just 58 percent from there, though, and he is prone to three to four turnovers per game. Neither sophomore has taken a three-pointer this year. Point guard Casper Ware (5-10, 175 lbs.) is the best distributor on the team, and has quick hands. He can get into passing lanes for turnovers, but primarily uses his speed to harass the opposition. His 11 steals rank only behind Anderson's 17. Ware is just an average offensive player, averaging eight points. He can shoot it from the outside (5-of-8 3pt.), but isn't the first or second choices for the 49ers. Shooting guard Stephan Gilling (6-2, 205 lbs.) is a threat from three-point range and has taken a team-high 28 threes, making nine. The Colorado State transfer (10.3 ppg avg.) will have a difficult match-up with WVU's height and athleticism though. He isn't incredibly adept at creating his own deep shot, but also won't hesitate to drive it.
Guard Greg Plater (6-1, 165 lbs.) is the sixth man. The junior plays about 25 minutes and will put it up from the outside. He has made nine of 26 threes while taking 34 shots overall. A specialist, he has not taken a free throw and doesn't rebound it. Forwards Arturas Lazdauskas (6-7, 239 lbs.) and Kyle Richardson (6-7, 222 lbs.) play a combined 18 minutes and are typically used to give the sophomore forwards a break. Lazdauskas, a senior, is not an offensive threat and will hack on the defensive end because of a lack of footwork and quickness. Richardson, a freshman, has six points all season and is still learning the game.
West Virginia has more depth and should be able to run a better total roster of talent at Long Beach State. Anderson is a concern all over the floor, and WVU needs to be aware of the shooting prowess of Plater and Gilling. Also, anything Ware puts up from outside must be challenged. This team is long, but lacks overall height and it doesn't routinely see the skill the Mountaineers will put on the floor. If the defense clamps down and West Virginia gets a body on a body when rebounding, this should be a win. The cross country trip will could play a factor, but if one believes Bob Huggins is even going to note that possibility, one would likely be mistaken. This is a game WVU needs to win and it should win. Contest shots, play physical defense and find a man on the boards. The offense will come.
|Thurs. Nov. 26
2:00 p.m. EST
Anaheim Convention Center
WVU 2-0, 0-0
LBSU 4-1, 0-0
WVU - 32
LBSU - 57
The school's official mascot is the 49er, in honor of the school's founding in 1949 and that the city of Long Beach, like many others in California, prospered due to the 1850 gold rush. In 1989, the school's baseball team was nicknamed ‘The Dirtbags' because of their gritty style. The athletic department recognizes the nickname, but prefers the simple Long Beach State or LBSU. The school's official name is California State University, Long Beach.
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NFL coaching icon George Allen coached Long Beach State in 1989, his final season of football. Allen was responsible for the school's color change from brown and gold to black and gold when he switched the team's uniforms. The official black and gold hues were adopted via student vote in 2000. Allen died in 1990.
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West Virginia is 6-9 all-time in games played in California. It won its last game, against UCLA, 60-56 in 2006 to start a two-game series sweep of the Bruins. Trivia: Name the only school to defeat WVU twice within the state of California.
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Final LBSU tidbit: "Prospectin' Pete", is the official mascot, though he didn't get a name until a student vote was taken sometime in the late 80s or early 90s. Before then, he was simply known as the "49er Man". He bears a resemblance to Jay Leno.
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West Virginia is 1-0 all-time against current members of the Big West Conference (Fresno State, 1988). The Mountaineers have never faced Long Beach State or head coach Dan Monson.
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Trivia answer: Utah. The Utes bested WVU 65-62 in Anaheim in the 1998 NCAA Tournament third round to move to the Elite Eight. They also beat the Mountaineers 84-83 in Los Angeles Memorial Arena in 1961. Huggins lost to the Utes as a player in the 1976 Kentucky Invitational despite his 15 points – the fifth of six consecutive defeats to the school. West Virginia is 0-6 all-time against Utah.