Consistent shooting from the free-throw line late in the game helped the University of San Diego basketball team hold on for a 60-55 victory over Cal State Long Beach in the opening round of the Boise State Tournament at Boise, Ida., Friday in front of 2,897 fans. USD jumped to a 10-0 lead but then began to struggle.
"The opening surge probably hurt us," USD Coach Hank Egan said. "I think we got to standing a round a little and lost some of our intensity."
USD (5-2) advances to the tournament's championship tonight against Boise State, which the Toreros defeated earlier this season, 54-52. Long Beach evened its record to 4-4.
Sluggish play by the Toreros allowed Long Beach to trim San Diego's edge to 25-24 late in the first half.
The Toreros led until midway through the second half when Long Beach took a 38-37 advantage after John Hatten connected for eight consecutive points in a 2 1/2-minute span.
But two free throws by 7-foot center Scott Thompson put USD ahead 54-49 with 1:14 to play.
"In the second half, we moved the ball around better and got our post people moving a little more, and it opened things up for Scott (Thompson)," Egan said. "When things got tight in the second half, we didn't quit and we didn't drop our heads, we just got after it."
Late in the game, Long Beach resorted to fouling in an effort to get the ball, but the strategy backfired. In the final 50 seconds of play, USD hit six of seven from the line. Thompson, who is 28 of 36 from the line this season, was 8 of 8 in the second half.
"I've been shooting free throws well all season," said Thompson, who lead all scorers with 23 points. "I'm glad (Boise State) kept fouling me. I think it was a mistake on their part, I guess they got hold of the wrong stat sheets."
Thompson was fouled in the final seconds of the game and sank both free throws, to give USD a 58-55 lead.
USD's Danny Means scored the first six points of the game, hitting a three-pointer, a layup and a free throw. Means finished with 10 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists.
The Toreros led, 30-26, at the half, after Thompson sank a five-foot hook shot at the buzzer.
Tony Ronzone and Andre Purry had 14 points apiece to lead Long Beach. The 49ers hit only 23 of 58 from the field (39%).
USD gained its third consecutive victory and fourth win on the road this season. The Toreros have played six of their seven games this season on the road.
SDSU loses again, 81-66. Story, Page 12.