After UCLA hoops’ demolishing of Prairie View A&M, the Bruins will look to build some serious momentum against a struggling Long Beach State squad that comes into this match-up with a 4-6 record.
And sure, that 4-6 record doesn’t look so bad when you realize those losses come against the likes of No. 11 UNC, No. 10 Arizona, No. 4 Syracuse and No. 7 Ohio State. But it wasn’t as if LBSU was competitive in any of those games — in fact, they were blown out pretty terribly in all those contests — and they were also schooled by a lowly USC team.
This drop-off is expected of Cal State Long Beach, though. After a wildly successful 2011-12 campaign, which saw them get into the Big Dance before getting bounced out of the first round by New Mexico, the Niners lost seven seniors, three of which were Long Beach’s leading scorers.
As a result, these Dirtbags have had to find new leaders offensively and defensively, integrating a plethora of new freshmen and transfers.
The leading scorer for LBSU is 6’7” wingman James Ennis, a senior averaging a respectable 16.6 points a game to go along with 7.9 boards. He’s also leading the team in PER and has been a hell of an inside presence, leading the team in block percentage as well as having a solid rebounding rate of 12.5 percent, the second-best among the Dirtbags.
After that? It gets tough to find a Long Beach State player to worry about. The second leading scorer is Michael Caffey, a 6’0” point guard that averages 10.2 points per game, but he’s shooting at a disastrous 29.5 shooting clip (21 percent from downtown) while also laying claim to the team’s lowest offensive rating (78.7). There’s also Dan Jennings, the starting power forward, who’s shooting at a 47 percent clip, but he isn’t exactly getting shots although he rebounds well.
As a team, LBSU statistically, erm … let’s be real: They suck, statistically, in every facet imaginable. The lone stat that stands out: They jack up a lot of threes, averaging 21.4 attempts from downtown per game. That should strike UCLA fans as a problem, considering UCLA gives up a lot of three-point attempts, with the Bruins’ three-point defense being the cluster-you-know-what that it has been all season. Sure, LBSU is only converting 31 percent, but volume matters when you’re getting open three-pointers.
But shooting at a 39 percent clip, the way LBSU is, is nothing to hang your hat on, especially when allowing opponents to shoot at a 42 percent clip. As a result, the Dirtbags are being outscored by an average of 10 points.
This is where UCLA begins to make a statement stretch. The Bruins need to blow out a lowly LBSU team that’s still respectable as a program. A big win here, and UCLA might be on to something after all. An escape or, shoot, a loss, and all hell breaks loose and the Bruins start back from square one eleven games into the season.
With this UCLA squad? No result would surprise me.