Record crowd can't push The Beach past UNC
NOV 16, 2012 10:54p ET
This year, Long Beach State finally got a chance to do it on their court. But it was a much different team than the one that had given the Tar Heels a scare the previous two seasons. Casper Ware, who exploded for 29 points last season at the Dean E. Smith Center, is gone along with the rest of the cast of characters.
But this new group of 49ers played as if they had been playing together for years Friday night, giving a record crowd of 6,912 at the Walter Pyramid every bit the show they wanted to see. While the final score of 78-63 may not have been in favor of the 49ers, it was a contest in which the score was not truly indicative of the play.
"This event elevated our program," said Long Beach (1-2) head coach Dan Monson. "I don't know that I've ever said that a 15-point loss is a great college basketball game but from my standpoint it was great for our team and it was great for our program."
Long Beach's James Ennis and Mike Caffey, two of three team captains, played like captains leading their squad with 18 and 14 points each, while Ennis also grabbed eight boards and blocked four shots.
For the Tar Heels (3-0), James Michael MacAdoo bounced back from a slow first half to finish with 18 points and nine rebounds. Marcus Paige scored 15 with four assists.
The game did expose a glaring weakness of The Beach -- rebounding. The 49ers were out-rebounded 55-39 and the offensive margin was even wider with Carolina pulling down 23 and The Beach getting just 12.
"In the second half, they got a lot of offensive rebounds and that's what killed us," Ennis said.
The Tar Heels came out of the gate with hard and fast backcourt pressure. Caffey had his pocket picked a few times early on but wasn't rattled. The 49ers maintained their composure and a funny thing happened -- they took the lead.
At 11:38, Richardson turned over his shoulder and finished off a four-footer to tie the game at 15-15. Richardson then converted the three-point play to give Long Beach its first lead. J.P. Tokoto hit a short jumper to give the Tar Heels back a 19-17 lead but Richardson then tied it again.
The 49ers then went up 24-21 and built that lead up to 31-25 with 2:15 to play in the first half, with Caffey contributing six points in that stretch.
"They were fired up, I think they fed off the energy of the crowd." said North Carolina head coach Roy Williams. "It was a great college atmosphere."
The lead would not be relinquished until Brice Johnson made a backdoor cut off an inbound pass for an easy basket to give Carolina a 33-32 lead just two seconds before halftime.
It was a key play that proved to be a difference in the 49ers' offense the rest of the way.
"I (asked) our guys this morning in film, 'Why did we lose against USC? Because we got frustrated offensively and then we quit playing defense.'" Monson said.
Long Beach continued to play strong offense early in the second half, but ran out of defensive gas. After Dan Jennings hit a shot in the post to put The Beach up 41-39, Carolina scored two straight threes and McAdoo converted a three-point play. McAdoo then tipped in his own miss and the Tar Heels had their biggest lead of the game at 50-43 in just over five minutes of play.
"My halftime speeches have got to be the worst in American," Monson said. "We let them get comfortable in the second half."
But Long Beach was not content to just roll over. The fire was still lit and they continued to make plays until the very end. At the end of the night, a crowd stood and gave both teams an ovation for the efforts that both put forth.
"I'm proud of our attitude of sticking together when we got behind... But we did a lot of things well tonight," Monson said. "But I'd trade a loss today for a win in March and that's got to be the big picture."
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