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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 29, 7:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Walter Pyramid (5,000) -- Long Beach, California. Television: FS-PT. Home Record: Pacific 4-2, LBSU 2-2. Away Record: Pacific 0-3, LBSU 2-5. Neutral Record: Pacific 2-1, LBSU 0-0. Conference Record: Pacific 0-0, LBSU 0-0. Series Record: LBSU leads, 55-37.
GAME NOTES: The Pacific Tigers are set to open their final Big West Conference season, as they take on the Long Beach State 49ers at the Walter Pyramid.
Pacific, which will join the West Coast Conference beginning next season, closed out the non-conference portion of its schedule with an 80-42 home win over Cal Maritime on Dec. 21. While that victory came at home against an outmatched NAIA school, the Tigers have dropped all three of their true road games so far this season. Four of their next six games will be played in unfriendly confines.
Long Beach State has struggled while trying to replace several key members from last year's squad that won its second consecutive conference title. The 49ers are just 4-7 overall and enter their Big West Conference schedule with losses in four of their last five outings. They have been idle since an 89-70 setback at UCLA on Dec. 18.
LBSU has won each of the last five meetings and leads the head-to-head series, 55-37.
Leading 15-7 early in the contest against Cal Maritime, Pacific went on a 16-2 run to take a 22-point lead and never looked back. The Tigers went on to shoot a season-high 58.2 percent from the field en route to 80 points, also a season-best. Lorenzo McCloud led the way with 14 points, while Tony Gill and Tim Thomas each had career-highs with 11 points. But whereas the Tigers managed to cruise past Cal Maritime without much resistance, the rest of their season has not gone quite as smooth. McCloud paces the squad with 12.3 points per game behind 51.5-percent shooting from the floor. However, he is also the team's only double-digit scorer on the season. The Tigers have also had their share of struggles on the boards, as Sama Taku's 3.9 rebounds per game represent a team-high.
Long Beach State is shooting just 39.5 percent from the floor as a team this season and is -9.6 in scoring margin. The 49ers are also averaging 16.0 turnovers per game (-2.2) and are -4.2 in rebounding margin. They've even struggled at the foul line, shooting just 64.2 percent. Still, when facing LBSU, opponents must pay extra attention to senior forward James Ennis, who leads the team in scoring (16.9), rebounding (7.7), blocks (1.7), 3-pointers made (1.63) and free throws made (4.0). The 49ers did not play much defense their last time out, as UCLA shot a blistering 58.9 percent from the floor and put up 89 points. Dan Jennings (11.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg) had a monster game in defeat, pouring in 27 points behind a 13-of-15 shooting effort from the field. Ennis chipped in with 20 points, although the 49ers were unable to match UCLA's scoring pace.
Perhaps the long layoff will serve the 49ers well as they delve into the heart of their BWC schedule. Another loss here against a Pacific squad that has struggled on the road would be really telling.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Long Beach State 66, Pacific 59
12/29 10:35:51 ET