NCAA BK

Long Beach State falls to No. 10 VCU 73-67

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP)

Long Beach State coach Dan Monson knew his team would have to scrap to stay close in every game it played this week at the Puerto Rico Shootout.

The 49ers were picked apart in their opening-round loss to Michigan on Thursday. They came up short again Friday in a 73-67 loss to No. 10 Virginia Commonwealth.

But for a team just trying to get better, Monson said he feels as if they are on track.

''We came here to get better, we came here to trust each other and it was a good step today,'' Monson said.

Branford Jones led Long Beach State (1-5) with 19 points, and Mike Caffey added 15 in its fifth straight loss.

Long Beach State handled VCU's pressure well at times, committing only 10 turnovers.

The 49ers successfully navigated VCU'S defensive pressure for much of the first half, but the Rams began to succeed in speeding up Long Beach State in the final 20 minutes. It didn't always produce turnovers, but it did prompt Monson's team to take quick shots.

A string of misses triggered a 13-0 run that put the Rams up 55-50 with under 12 minutes to play.

''I thought we controlled the tempo and were able to dictate the tempo for 35 minutes,'' Monson said. ''That's all it took, just that two or three minutes against a team that dangerous, that explosive. Our margin for error was very small and we used it in that three-minute thing and we couldn't get a rebound or that next play to get us back in it.''

Rob Brandenberg had 19 points for VCU (4-1), which had four players score in double figures. Juvonte Reddic added 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Briante Weber had 15 points.

''I was just trying to stay aggressive and just try and help my team any way I can,'' Brandenberg said.

After VCU's run, Long Beach got the lead back at 58-57 on a 3-pointer by A.J. Spencer. But another quick burst by the Rams put them back in front 68-60 with 2:45 remaining.

A 3-pointer from the wing by Jones and another 3 by Caffey with 16.5 seconds left cut it to 72-67.

Long Beach State was aggressive in the opening 20 minutes and led 36-35 at the break. Both teams were up and down the floor in a half that featured nine ties and eight lead changes.

The 49ers weren't intimidated by the Rams' pressure and turned it over only three times. VCU was shakier with the ball with six giveaways.

The Rams were 14 for 31 from the field, but had five 3s to keep pace.

Rams coach Shaka Smart called it a ''hard-fought win.''

''I thought we responded well,'' Smart said. ''Last night was a humbling game. And that's a good thing. Losing not a good thing, but it's good to be humbled because it reminds you that you have a long way to go and we have to get better. ''

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Follow Kyle Hightower at http://www.twitter.com/khightower

Tagged: Long Beach State, Virginia Commonwealth

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