Long Beach State had visions of Travis Reed being a big-time player once he became eligible after his transfer from UCLA.
Reed had disappointed in his first nine games as a 49er. On Monday night against Loyola Marymount, however, the junior showed why those visions remain alive.
Reed's uncontested drive to the basket with 20 seconds left gave Long Beach State the lead and the 49ers held on for a 57-54 victory before a sparse but enthusiastic 1,056 at Gersten Pavilion.
It was the third win in a row for Long Beach (6-4), which executed while the young Lions didn't in the final two minutes. Reed, averaging a modest 11.2 points and 7.2 rebounds, did the honors by rallying the 49ers from a three-point deficit.
"I thought Travis Reed's play with  seconds left was a big-time tremendous play," Long Beach Coach Wayne Morgan said of the center, who had 13 points and six rebounds. "We were trying to get the lead and then play defense, make them miss and possibly get the rebound.
"[Robert] Davis was doing a good job on Rock [Ramel Lloyd] so we got the ball to Travis. There was nobody below the rim and he just exploded to the rim."
Loyola Coach Steve Aggers said a defensive mistake left Reed open.
"We tried to go for the steal when we should have just played to contain," he said.
Reed's strong inside move and basket pulled the 49ers to within 54-53 after Davis' three-pointer broke a 51-51 tie. It was the last points for Loyola (3-6), which failed on its final three possessions.
Greg Lakey could have restored a three-point lead with 1:31 remaining but he missed a dunk. The Lions' Marcus Smith lost the ball out of bounds with 41 seconds left.
After Reed's final basket, Loyola worked the clock down but the ball wound up in the hands of reserve Marcus Smith, who rolled a 12-foot jumper off the rim. The ball went off Elton Mashack and the 49ers got a layup by Ron Johnson to clinch it.
"We had a set play called and we didn't execute it," Aggers said.
Lloyd had 13 of his 20 points in the second half, living up to his Rock nickname. It was Lloyd who sank three three-pointers in a 2:44 span that helped stem a big Loyola rally at the start of the half.
"I've got a shooters' mentality," said Lloyd, who has reached 20 or more points in six of the 10 games. "That's what I do. As long as they're good shots and within the offense, Coach [Morgan] doesn't mind."
The exciting finish made up for some bad basketball by both teams in the first half.
Long Beach led, 28-18, at halftime but it could have led by 30 had it converted on more of the gifts Loyola was passing out. The Lions were already in the holiday mood, turning the ball over 18 times en route to 24 for the game.
It was the 49ers' best defensive performance by far. They had 10 steals and held Loyola to six field goals and 25% shooting in the half. But they were just as guilty of poor play, being outrebounded by 11 and making only 12 of 31 shots.