Not only did point guard Deishuan Booker do something last weekend that no Long Beach State men’s basketball player has done in 27 years, the transfer junior did it two nights in a row. Booker had 12 assists in consecutive games of the Advocare Invitational in Orlando, Fla., over the holiday weekend.
The last LBSU player with 12 assists in a game was Tyrone Mitchell in 1990. That is good for second most in school history. Rick Aberegg had 15 assists against Northern Illinois in 1974.
“We’re really pleased with the process of him learning what he can and can’t do at this level,” LBSU coach Dan Monson said. “It’s been exciting for all of our guys to see him kind of start to figure it out, because obviously that’s the spot we need to shore up the most.”
Booker came from College of Southern Idaho, where last year he averaged 9.8 points, 6.4 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game while leading his team to the NJCAA national tournament. The 6’3” junior is averaging 8.7 points and 6.3 assists this season. He said that staying aggressive with his dribble is key to his success.
“It opens up lanes for my teammates to get open,” Booker said. “Keeping the defense honest plays into my game to get my guys good shots.”
LBSU opened the Advocare Invitational with lopsided losses to No. 23 West Virginia and Missouri. However, the 49ers bounced back to beat Oregon State 74-69 six days after losing to the Beavers in Corvallis. Monson said the change of venue factored in, but that the return of injured forward Temidayo Yussuf was the key to victory. Oregon State forward Drew Eubanks scored 26 points in the Beavers win last week, and only six points in the loss.
“Yussuf gives us a different low post presence,” Monson said. “(Eubanks) had to guard at the other end in the second game. I think this team is getting better. They’re battling, and getting more confidence.”
Booker had career-best statistics in the win over Oregon State with 14 points, 12 assists, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks. LBSU took an early lead, and didn’t trail in the first half. Forward Gabe Levin helped the 49ers build the lead with 14 points in 18 minutes due to foul trouble. Temidayo Yussuf had nine points and seven rebounds.
Booker hit a three-point shot from the top of the key to break a tie with 1:28 left to play. LBSU made all seven of its free throw attempts in the final 30 seconds to clinch the victory.
"We were all embarrassed by (loss to Missouri),” Monson said. "When you have mistakes, it's how you respond to them. I'm really proud our guys didn't pout. They put it away, and came back and did something about it. We played hard, and played with great passion."
The win over OSU was LBSU’s 10th win over major conference opponent under Monson, and the 49ers faced another one, Nebraska, in the fifth-place game on Saturday. LBSU trailed by more than 20 points in both halves of the game, and cut the deficit to four points twice, but ultimately lost to the Cornhuskers 85-80.
Levin had his second double double of the season with a team-high 22 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. Booker had his second-consecutive double double with 15 points with 12 assists. Junior forward Mason Riggins scored a career-high 14 points with seven rebounds.
“This team continues to get better,” Monson said. “We outrebounded Nebraska (45-30) and we got beat up on the boards during the exhibition season. We may still lose, but if we improve, I think that’s the important thing.”
After seven games, LBSU is led by Levin’s 15.1 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Transfer Bryan Alberts is averaging 12.9 points thanks to 40% shooting from behind the three-point line. The 49ers are giving up an average of 81.4 points.
“It’s baby steps, and we’re playing a schedule that needs giant steps,” Monson said. “But you can’t measure yourself by that because the giant steps aren’t going to happen with this many new guys in this difficult stretch.”
After leaving Orlando, LBSU finished its season-long six-game road trip at No. 2 Arizona on Wednesday. The 49ers return to Walter Pyramid this weekend to host Fresno State and Stanford.