Graphic by Francisco Valladares/Athletics Editor

While You Were Away

Men's basketball goes 3-2 in conference play during winter break

 Story by Jarrod Castillo Staff Writer 

Jan. 4 vs. Hawai'i

LBSU (1-0) defeated the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (0-1), 89-81, in the first game of Big West Conference play, behind senior guard Barry Ogalue’s career-high 21 points on 9-of-10 shooting.

Though the Beach was without their junior guard Bryan Alberts, the team’s second leading scorer, they sighed with relief as senior forward Gabe Levin was back in the lineup after returning from injury.

This game marked the first time that Levin and junior forward Temidayo Yussuf, a talented offensive duo, played together in conference play. Their chemistry showed early on, as they ended the half with 10 points each.

“It was great to see Temi and Gabe in their first league game,” LBSU head coach Dan Monson said. “I know there’s been a lot written and said about that, the first time in four years they both played in a league game together.”

Levin and Yussuf dominated in the post throughout the match, but it was Ogalue who managed to get hot in the second half. Hawaii had no answer for him as he went off for 13 of his 21 in the second. Levin and Yussuf also added 18 points each to the win.

Jan. 6 vs. UC Irvine

After allowing the UC Irvine Anteaters (1-1) to shoot 56 percent from downtown, the Beach (1-1) lost their first away game of conference play, 86-73.

Going into the match without Alberts, one of their top 3-point shooters, LBSU floundered from deep, only scoring five of their 13 total attempts.

Their lack of spacing forced the Beach to do all their work in the paint, which the Anteaters countered with continuous threes, culminating in an extremely efficient 61 percent shooting from 3-point land.

With that, LBSU were seemingly out of contention early in the match, digging themselves a 20-point hole by halftime.

The Beach managed to go on a run that brought them within 13 of UCI in the second half, but that was as close as they would get for the rest of the match.

Levin continued to star on the offensive end for the Beach despite the loss, contributing 20 points and seven rebounds, while also continuing to show good chemistry with Yussuf, who had 14 points and three steals.

Jan. 10 vs. CSU Northridge

The Beach (2-1) got back to winning ways with an 80-70 win against CSUN (0-2), behind a career-high 29 points from senior forward Gabe Levin.

While the end result was favorable for the Beach, they started the game sluggish and were seemingly unable to execute any offensive plays. On the defensive end they were no better, allowing CSUN to lead 19-11 early in the half. Nonetheless, Levin carried the team through a 27-10 run with 15 points and five boards in the first half.

In the second half, the Beach relied heavily on their low post play, with junior forward Temidayo Yussuf bullying his way into the paint and wreaking havoc. It wasn’t just Yussuf, as Levin got a fair share of touches in the post en route to his career night.

“At the end of the day, points don’t matter,” Levin said. “I just wanted to win and whatever I have to do to help the team win, that’s all I want.”

While LBSU head coach Dan Monson was content with the win, he felt that the team still needed to work on their defense.

“Our awareness defensively has just got to get better,” he said. “We’ve got to be able to come out and establish early in halves and dictate from the defensive end better.”

Jan. 13 vs. UC Riverside

Following LBSU’s double-digit victory over CSUN on Jan. 10, the Beach (3-1) managed to put together a solid defensive game, notching their first road win against UC Riverside (0-4).  

After Monson preached about the team’s need to improve on the defensive end, the Beach showed a glimpse of what they can do, as they held the Highlanders to an inefficient 34 percent shooting from the floor.

The Beach caused problems for UCR by playing stingy defense throughout the game, with LBSU junior forward KJ Byers active on both ends of the floor. Not only did he score 14 points and grab 11 rebounds for his first career double-double, Byers also blocked three shots and got a steal.

Levin led the Beach in scoring with 18 points, while freshman guard Edon Maxhuni tied a career high with 16 points of his own.

Jan. 17 vs. UC Davis

After a defensive-minded game against UCR, the Beach (3-2) lost a high-scoring game against the UC Davis Aggies (3-1), 84-75, behind junior guard Siler Schneider’s 29 points.

LBSU came out firing in the first half, hitting 48 percent of their shots in a near reversal from their last game. However, the defense that won them their last contest had seemingly deserted them, as they allowed the Aggies to shoot 53 percent from the field.

What added to that great percentage for the Aggies was the fact that they shot 7-for-11 on three pointers, a blistering 64 percent clip. Turnovers were also a problem for the Beach, as they accumulated 11 first half turnovers and were down 42-37 by halftime.

To start the second half, it appeared as if the Aggies’ terrific shooting would continue, rushing to an 11-point lead early in the half. It was short lived as the Aggies finally went cold for a stretch,  going scoreless for over two minutes, allowing the Beach to bring the game within four.

However, that was the closest the Beach got as the Aggies were eventually able to push the lead back up to 12 in the waning moments of the game.  

Schneider’s 29 points for the Aggies led all scorers, while senior forward Gabe Levin had 18 points and four rebounds for the Beach.