49ers pick up 12th Big West victory
Long Beach, which beat the Highlanders 99-65 when the teams met in the Walter Pyramid, forced four turnovers on UCR’s first six possessions after intermission and pushed its lead to 52-43 after a 3-pointer by Aaron Nixon, who finished with 18 points and five assists. The 49ers’ lead was at 14 points at 73-59 after a Nixon layup and free throw with 8:53 remaining. Consecutive layups by Downey High graduate Larry Cunningham cut Long Beach’s lead to 73-65 with 6:28 to go. But Houston knocked in a free throw after being fouled while converting a layup, and that triggered a 16-3 run that was capped emphatically on a fast-break slam by Mark Dawson, courtesy of a 30-foot lob pass by Byrd, with 1:32 to go. “We were playing our fourth game in eight nights and we were a little sloppy and lackadaisical in the first half, which was to be expected,” Reynolds said. “But we came out in the second half, built a cushion and were able to sustain it and close it (the regular season) on a confident note.” Now the fun begins. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “We’re really happy to win 22 games and the (regular-season) championship,” forward Sterling Byrd said, after another all-conference caliber performance of 23 points, seven rebounds and four steals for the 49ers. “But we want to get to the NCAA Tournament. That’s always been the biggest goal.” Playing in front of 1,043 in the Student Recreation Center – a healthy portion of those Long Beach followers and friends and family members of 49ers’ assistant John Masi, who was fired as UCR’s head coach two years ago – Reynolds’ team seemed content to just exchange baskets with the Highlanders over the first 20 minutes. The 49ers led by as many as eight points before setting for a 44-40 advantage at intermission after Kevin Houston’s 5-footer with 25 seconds to go. The Highlanders final lead in the first half came at 33-32 after Chris Johnson’s drive with 4:29 remaining. RIVERSIDE – The Long Beach State men’s basketball team reeled off its 12th Big West Conference victory in 14 games Saturday evening by knocking off host UC Riverside in rather systematic fashion, 91-75. Next up on the 49ers’ agenda: beating two more Big West teams next Friday and Saturday nights in the Anaheim Convention Center. A 22-7 regular-record and 12-2 conference mark got Coach Larry Reynolds’ team a regular-season championship plaque and t-shirts, as well as assorted slaps on the back. Two more wins next weekend will earn them something priceless – the program’s first spot in the NCAA Tournament since 1995.