The Long Beach State women’s basketball team is off to its best start since 2005-06, but a win on Saturday would give LBSU its best start since 1991-92.
The Beach, which is 4-2 so far this season and currently riding a four-game winning streak, will head inland for a test this weekend at the ASU Classic in Tempe, Ariz. The tournament features two six-win teams in Harvard (6-2) and tournament host Arizona State (6-1).
Head coach Jody Wynn said she isn’t interested in the accolades early on and has put more focus on the overall improvement of her young squad. “All we care about is if we’re getting better every time we take the court,” she said. “It just so happens to be that we’ve won four in a row, but we’ve gotten better through those four games. The record isn’t something we talk or worry about; it’s more if we’re getting better every day.”
LBSU is scheduled to face Harvard for the first time, in the rare early-morning tip-off Saturday at 8 a.m.
Unlike the 49ers, the Crimson saw their winning streak come to an end this past Sunday at St. John’s. However, Harvard senior guard and Tucson native Christine Clark hopes to end one streak and start another with her 19.4 points per game against a team that had gone after hard during the recruiting process.
“She’s extremely versatile and a flat out scorer,” Wynn said. “She was a great player the moment she stepped out on the court for Harvard. So we’re definitely going to have our work cut out for us.” 49ers junior guard Alex Sanchez will be given the tough task of defending the Crimson’s leading scorer. “We’ve heard [Clark] is a good player, but we’re just going to treat her like every other player,” Sanchez said. “She puts on shoes and a jersey just like us. She’s been playing basketball her whole life. We’ve played our whole life. She’s obviously skilled and really good. We just have to come in focused and do what we do best.”
With the first game deciding what happens on Sunday, the ‘Niners will have the chance to face ASU or Sacred Heart (2-4) the following day.
Like the 49ers, the Sun Devils are on a winning streak, coming into the weekend winners of their last five. ASU came out of the Cancun Challenge in Mexico that saw them upset No. 11 ranked North Carolina in overtime.
The Sun Devils play a similar style of team-oriented basketball with no true star on the team. Redshirt senior guard Deja Mann leads her team in scoring with 13.9 points per game a year after a debilitating knee injury that forced her to miss the entire 2012-13 season. Fellow senior Adrianne Thomas assumes the point guard role where her minimal shooting range forces most of her points to come from close to the basket.
“[ASU] is very deep, and they rotate players in like a hockey lineup, taking players in and out every two minutes,” Wynn said. “It’s an equal opportunity offense that doesn’t really have a star in the system per se, but they’re very deep and talented.”
Sacred Heart, another team LBSU has never shared a tip-off with, has been the least productive team in the field this year, recently losing to Iona by 24 points. The trip to the copper state will be the homecoming of LBSU’s lone senior Jade Wilson, who went to Tempe High School and played at Mesa Community College, a junior college that’s just a 10-minute drive from downtown Tempe. Upon their return, the 49ers will face San Diego next weekend at the Walter Pyramid, looking to extend a three-game win streak on their home court.