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BIG WEST TOURNAMENT

Long Beach State secures its first title since 1995

March 11, 2007|Dan Arritt | Times Staff Writer

Aaron Nixon and Mark Dawson sparked a second-half surge Saturday night that lifted the Long Beach State men's basketball team to a 94-83 victory over Cal Poly San Luis Obispo at the Anaheim Convention Center, earning the 49ers their first Big West Conference tournament title since 1995.

Nixon, the conference player of the year, scored 17 of his 29 points in the second half and Dawson highlighted a game-clinching run by slamming an alley-oop pass from Kevin Houston, bring the sparse crowd to its feet.

Dawson, a 6-foot-9 reserve senior center who came in averaging 5.5 points, scored 12, and Kejuan Johnson contributed 24, two off his career high.

After making only 12 of 38 shots in the opening half, the top-seeded 49ers made 17 of 30 in the second.

Long Beach started slowly against Cal Poly, making only three of its first 12 shots to fall behind by six points in the first six minutes.

Cal Poly took its biggest lead of the first half, 33-23, on a three-point basket by Trae Clark with just under three minutes left, but the 49ers scored seven of the last nine points to pull to within five at the half.

Sterling Byrd, who came in averaging 14.3 points for Long Beach, missed all eight of his shots in the first half and scored one point. Johnson and Houston, who each produced career highs in victories against the Mustangs this season, combined to make only four of 15 shots in the first half.

The 49ers (24-7) scored the first five points of the second half to tie the score, then went ahead, 41-40, when Johnson made a three-point basket two minutes into the half.

Byrd finally scored 75 seconds later, his three-pointer stretching the lead to 47-41.

Cal Poly (19-11) then caught the 49ers two minutes later, but Nixon followed with a three-pointer and Dawson slammed home the pass from Houston, highlighting the 21-7 run.

Derek Stockalper, who came in averaging a team-high 14.7 points for the Mustangs, was held to eight.

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In the women's championship game:

UC Riverside 70, UC Santa Barbara 67 -- The top-seeded Highlanders won their second consecutive title behind 23 points from Seyram Gbewonyo, including a tiebreaking basket with 17.6 seconds left.

Jordan Franey's three-point basket with 44 seconds left had tied the score, 67-67, for second-seeded Santa Barbara (17-13). There were eight ties and seven lead changes during the second half.

UC Riverside (21-10) made seven of 11 three-point attempts, the third-highest percentage in tournament history. UC Santa Barbara, which lost by one point in last season's championship game, made nine of 20 three-point attempts.

Kemie Nkele, the tournament's most valuable player, scored 18 points for the Highlanders and Amber Cox had 12.

Jenna Green scored 21 points for the Gauchos, Chisa Ononiwu had 15 and Franey 11.

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dan.arritt@latimes.com

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