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MARCH MADNESS / NCAA MEN'S TOURNAMENT

Long Beach Makes Early Exit at Cal

NIT: After being snubbed by NCAA, 49ers come up short in 70-66 loss in first round of consolation tournament.

March 16, 2000|MIKE TERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BERKELEY — Like several teams playing in the 63rd annual National Invitation Tournament, Long Beach State believed it should have been playing in the NCAA tournament instead.

And, like several teams that played first-round NITgames, the 49ers' plans for a postseason statement didn't pan out.

Long Beach State was shown the tournament exit door by California, which defeated the 49ers, 70-66, Wednesday before 5,558 at Haas Pavilion.

Cal (17-14) will play host to Georgetown Monday or Tuesday. The Hoyas defeated Virginia in triple overtime Wednesday, 115-111.

The Golden Bears--who got a game-high 20 points from last year's NIT MVP Sean Lampley and a career high 19 points from Robbie Jones--also continue their quest for back-to-back NIT titles.

Long Beach, led by James Williams' 17 points, ended its season at 24-6.

And the 49ers ended it the hard way--with a chance to go ahead or tie in the final seconds.

Cal had a 68-66 lead and guard Shantay Legans at the free-throw line. But the freshman guard missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity.

Antrone Lee, who had15 points, grabbed his eighth rebound and raced down court. He got into the key , where he dribbled the ball off his leg. Jones picked up the loose ball and fed Lampley for the final basket with 2.5 seconds to play.

"I was scared to death," Jones said. "No one had picked [Lee] up. Shantay gambled a little and steered him my way. Then he bobbled the ball. I saw it and grabbed it."

Long Beach Coach Wayne Morgan didn't know if Lee had lost the ball away or gotten fouled.

"I do know we didn't get a shot at the end," he said.

But Morgan also noted Long Beach, which led 34-33 at halftime, might have lost the game earlier than that.

That's because Cal seized control, outscoring Long Beach, 16-3, in the first 5:14 of the second half. The 49ers' only points came on a free throw and layup by Mate Milisa, who had 12 points.

"I thought we had played well in the first half, and I was glad to have the lead despite my two big guys not playing the last four minutes because of fouls," Morgan said.

"But in the second half we made mistakes and missed some things defensively. We started to play better as the game went on, and we had a chance at the end. But it was too much to overcome."

Williams managed to dominate for Long Beach State inside as he muscled his way in for layups, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked two shots.

And D'Cean Bryant attacked from the outside. All five of his field goals were three-pointers, and the last three were big ones. A 22-footer at 9:46 got Long Beach State back within 61-54. His next three-point basket at 2:32 drew Long Beach State within 62-61. And after Lampley put the Bears ahead 68-63 with 43.8 seconds left, Bryant dropped in his last three-point shot 14 seconds later.

"That had to be the longest 12 seconds of my life . . ." Cal Coach Ben Braun said. "But when Lee came down court we converged on the ball. He had some space for a moment, but the gap closed quickly."

So did the 49er season.

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