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SOUTH | NO. 12 LONG BEACH STATE VS. NO. 5 TENNESSEE

First look

March 12, 2007|PETER YOON

Long Beach State (24-7) vs.

Tennessee (22-10)

* They play: Friday, at Columbus, Ohio, about 11:45 a.m. PDT.

* How they advanced: Long Beach State is the Big West Conference tournament champion. The 49ers started the season 2-4, then won 16 of their next 18 games. Tennessee, an at-large team from the Southeastern Conference, was 2-7 through the first nine games of SEC play but went on a late-season run that included an 86-76 victory over defending national champion Florida.

* Hot or not: Long Beach State has won six consecutive games and 11 of its last 12. Tennessee won six of its last eight, though the Volunteers lost to mediocre Louisiana State in the first round of the SEC tournament.

* Common opponents: None.

* Telltale sign: Long Beach State gave up 83 points a game in their seven losses, 71 a game in their victories. Tennessee must force turnovers. Opponents have 20 turnovers a game in their victories, 15 a game in their losses.

* Style of play: Both teams play a similar style that relies on up-tempo guard penetration and three-point shooting. Long Beach State, at 80.3 points a game, and Tennessee, at 79.7, are among the nation's leaders in scoring average, and both are among the nation's top 25 in three-pointers made. Tennessee plays a more aggressive, pressuring defense, but both teams give up about the same number of points: 73.8 for Long Beach; 74.4 for Tennessee. Neither team is particularly big, and both were out-rebounded by opponents this season.

* Watch these guys: Guards Aaron Nixon and Kejuan Johnson are averaging 18.6 and 15.3 points, respectively, for Long Beach State. Point guard Kevin Houston, averaging 11.7 points and 4.4 assists, makes the engine run. Dynamic guard Chris Lofton, averaging 20.6 points a game and shooting 41.6% from three-point range, leads Tennessee. Fellow guard JaJuan Smith is also a top-notch shooter and averages 15 points.

What to expect: It should be a high-scoring game with no shortage of players launching three-pointers. It's an excellent matchup for the underdog 49ers, and they could pull the upset if their shooters stay as hot as they have been.

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