No. 1 Long Beach State Breaks Through, Downs No. 3 UCSB For Big West Men's Title
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2012 Big West Men's Basketball Tournament Central
In front of a crowd of 7,564, Tournament MVP Casper Ware scored 33 points and handed out six assists Saturday night at the Honda Center to lead No. 1 seed Long Beach State to a 77-64 victory over No. 3 seed UC Santa Barbara for the championship of the Big West Conference Tournament and an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
The tourney title is Long Beach's fifth in 11 championship game appearances and it will be its ninth NCAA tourney appearance, the first since 2007. The crowd of 7,564 was the largest in the 18-year tenure of the tourney in Anaheim.
The 49ers (25-8) avenged losses in the title game in each of the last two seasons to UCSB (20-10), which got 17 points from both Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally but lost to Long Beach for the third time this season.
Ware matched his career high with eight three-point baskets in 16 attempts as the 49ers combined for a season-high 14 in 33 attempts. Ware scored 14 of the 49ers’ first 15 points in the second half including his fifth and sixth treys, each one answering three-pointers by Nunnally. His seventh trey was part of a 4-point play that triggered a pivotal 12-0 run over five and a half minutes that turned a 47-46 lead into a 59-46 advantage with about nine minutes to play.
UCSB got back within seven points at 64-57 after back-to-back treys by Johnson but the 49ers responded with six unanswered points by James Ennis to lead 70-57 with less than four minutes to play.
Long Beach won the regular season championship with a 15-1 record and Ware is a two-time conference MVP.
UCSB had set season lows in turnovers twice in the tourney with six vs. Pacific and three vs. Cal Poly but committed 15 against the quicker 49ers.
In the first half, 24 of the 49ers' 36 points came on eight made 3-pointers in 19 attempts.
UCSB led for only 35 seconds of the game at 15-14 after a Jaime Serna bucket at 13:18. But Ware hit back-to-back treys and a driving layup for an 8-0 run and a 22-15 lead.
UCSB scored the next five points before Peter Pappageorge came off the LBSU bench to hit consecutive three-pointers for a 28-20 advantage. Ware’s fourth three-pointer at 5:36 gave Long Beach its biggest lead of the half at 33-24.
UCSB closed out the period with a 10-3 run to pull within 36-34 at intermission. Johnson and Nunnally each scored nine points while Ware led the 49ers with 14 points and five assists.
Ware was joined on the all-tournament team by Ennis, Johnson, Nunnally, Cal Poly's David Hanson and UC Irvine's Chris McNealy.