The Long Beach State women’s basketball team was unable to make up for its poor first half in its season opener against the No. 9 California, falling to the Bears 70-51 at Haas Pavilion on Friday night.
Thanks in large part to a long offseason and possibly some opening-night jitters on both sides, the 49ers (0-1) kept the game close for much of the first-half and were down just five points before freshman guard Anna Kim went down with a knee injury.
At that point in the game, Kim accounted for more than half of LBSU’s points, and as soon as she left the game, Cal (1-0) seemed to catch a rhythm that reminded those in the arena why they deserved a top-10 ranking to begin with.
“Cal was just a better team,” coach Wynn said. “They’re a top-10 team in the nation and a legitimate Final Four contender. They [the 49ers] competed against probably the number one rebounding team in the nation and probably one the most, if not the most athletic team in the nation.”
After back-to-back 3-pointers from Kim, the 49ers were unable to make a field goal in more than six minutes of action. In the closing seconds of the first half, a layup by junior guard Alex Sanchez concluded the 49ers’ dry spell.
“Credit Cal’s defense, but I think we had some wide-open looks that we just didn’t knock down,” Wynn said, “and maybe that couldn’t have changed the outcome, but if we shoot like we typically do in practice and in exhibition games, then it certainly could have been a little more competitive.”
In the second half the Bears came out of the locker room playing inspired basketball, scoring six points in just 64 seconds early on in the second half. Cal continued to add on to its lead in the second half with play that had more of a mid-season feel.
LBSU improved its quality of play on the offensive end, but inadequate defense and poor rebounding in the second half allowed Cal more opportunities to score. The 49ers registered 38 rebounds on the night compared to Cal’s 57.
The Bears shot 35.8 percent and were just 3-for-23 from 3-point range, while LBSU shot 30.3 percent from the field and was 6-for-24 from beyond the arc.
Cal senior guard Afure Jemerigbe led her team in scoring with 13 points, and Bears forward Reshanda Gray recorded a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Despite both 49ers going down with injuries in the first half, Lauren Spargo led all players in scoring with 16 points on 6-for-16 shooting. Kim was the only other double-digit scorer on the evening, recording 11 points on the night. Kim was also the only 49er to shoot above 50 percent in the contest.
“Both Lauren and Anna went down in the first half and couldn’t finish that half,” Wynn said. “But they came back in the second half and both of those kids competed. They weren’t afraid of the big lights and they came in tough, got to the basket, made big shots for us and overall competed extremely hard.”
LBSU will return to action next week when it heads to Reno to face Nevada on Friday.