Homecoming Day at Long Beach State provided many reasons to be excited despite the cold and drizzly weather: alumni were able to reconnect with their alma mater and with old friends from years past, two talented basketball teams from our side of the Red Line were preparing to embark on another Beautiful Season, and for me this will be the first college basketball game that I have had the pleasure to attend. Needless to say I was very eager to get to the Walter Pyramid and settle in to my seat. After a short fifteen minute trip on the 7th Street bus I had arrived on campus; a quick walk past the administration buildings, the university art museum and the athletic fields and I had finally arrived at my destination.
Homecoming festivities were in full gear in the adjacent parking lot. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves; pregame meals were served, games were played and wares were sold. For me and about twenty other folks waiting outside the doors of the big, cobalt blue structure the objective was one and the same: get in and get ready for some hoops action. Doors opened at about 1:00 pm and away we went. The student section (the Monson Maniacs) had camped out overnight inside the Pyramid and were in their seats before the doors had opened. After grabbing some popcorn and a Diet Coke I took a walk around the concourse and was struck by what a great view of the floor you have no matter where you are. This seems like the type of venue where there really are no bad seats.
I go down to my seat in Section 109 and pass the time watching the two teams warm up on the court while the Long Beach State band warms up in the stands over to my right. They run through a good part of their repertoire before tip-off and are sounding pretty good so I'm definitely looking forward to them. The Pyramid fills in slowly but surely with an alumni-heavy crowd as the opening tip approaches. Once the national anthem and player introductions are out of the way the ball is tossed in the air by the referee and the seasons of the Idaho Vandals and Long Beach State are underway.
The match up, a Bracketbuster return game from the 2009-2010 season pitting old Big West foes against one another, was an entertaining and tightly contested affair throughout with neither team pulling too far away from the other. The first half ended with the Vandals ahead 29-27 thanks an effective zone defense and an efficient inside-outside game led by Deremy Geiger and Kyle Barone (who had quite the cheering section in attendance as he hails from nearby Garden Grove). The 49ers led most of the first half thanks to solid perimeter play from Larry Anderson and tough play in the paint from T.J. Robinson and Eugene Phelps. The second half brought more back and forth action, but eventually Long Beach State was able to pull away in the last four minutes of the game as the 49ers turned up the intensity on defense which led to some easy buckets on the other end. Reigning Big West player of the year Casper Ware scored 15 of his game-high 20 points in the second half and all four senior 49er starters ended up in double digits. Idaho, led by Geiger and Djim Bandoumel with 13 points apiece and Barone with 11, played a tough and smart game and are going to give the WAC plenty of headaches this year.
I couldn't really ask for more from this experience: the band was fun and lively, the cheerleaders energetic and hardworking, and the announced crowd of 4,348 was into the game from the beginning. The student section was especially raucous, staying on their feet and cheering like crazy from the opening tip to the final buzzer. All in all it was a great day of hoops and I can't wait for the next game. On the ride back home all I kept thinking was "why didn't I do this sooner?"
Better late than never, right?
at LONG BEACH STATE 69, IDAHO 61 11/12/2011
IDAHO 0-1 (0-0) -- K. Barone 5-8 1-3 11; D. Geiger 4-8 3-4 13; L. Tatum 1-4 3-6 6; S. Madison 4-10 0-0 9; D. Bandoumel 5-6 3-3 13; M. Borton 2-2 0-0 5; M. Habeeb 0-3 0-0 0; M. McChristian 1-2 0-0 2; W. Faines 0-1 0-0 0; D. Starke 1-4 0-0 2; J. Kammerer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-48 10-16 61. LONG BEACH STATE 1-0 (0-0) -- C. Ware 7-17 3-5 20; T. Robinson 5-12 0-0 10; L. Anderson 4-4 5-6 16; E. Phelps 4-9 3-4 11; M. Caffey 3-6 0-1 6; J. Ennis 3-9 0-1 6; E. Dervisevic 0-0 0-0 0; C. Jackson 0-1 0-0 0; P. Pappageorge 0-1 0-0 0; S. Starkey 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 26-60 11-17 69.
Three-point goals: ID 5-9 (D. Geiger 2-5; L. Tatum 1-1; M. Borton 1-1; S. Madison 1-2), LBSU 6-20 (L. Anderson 3-3; C. Ware 3-9; S. Starkey 0-1; P. Pappageorge 0-1; M. Caffey 0-2; J. Ennis 0-4); Rebounds: ID 27 (K. Barone 9), LBSU 31 (T. Robinson 11); Assists: ID 12 (D. Geiger 3), LBSU 17 (L. Anderson 7); Total Fouls -- ID 18, LBSU 18; Fouled Out: ID-None; LBSU-None.