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Long Beach has no defense at all

49ers have plenty on the other end, but their inability to slow Tennessee leads to a 121-86 defeat.

March 17, 2007|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

COLUMBUS, OHIO — Long Beach State traveled here locked and loaded for a shootout with high-flying Tennessee, and the game lived up to its billing, with no shortage of offense between two of the nation's highest-scoring teams.

Too bad the 49ers forgot to pack their defense.

No. 5-seeded Tennessee benefited from a bevy of wide-open outside shots and uncontested layups Friday in a first-round NCAA South Regional game at Nationwide Arena and dismantled 12th-seeded Long Beach State, 121-86.

Tennessee (23-10) equaled the fourth-largest point total in the history of first- and second-round tournament games and tied the school record for most points in a game, first set in 1966.

They shot nearly 59% from the field and almost 52% from beyond the three-point arc. But the most telling statistic among the gaudy numbers was one of the smallest. Tennessee committed only six turnovers, more a testament to the way Long Beach played defense.

"We had a few mishaps on defense," said Long Beach State guard Aaron Nixon.

Clearly offense was not a problem for the 49ers (24-8).

They bettered their season scoring average by six points, shot 49.2% from the field -- also better than their season average -- and made 12 of 21 three-point shots.

In the 31 other first-round games, Tennessee, Florida (112) and Kansas (107) were the only teams to outscore Long Beach State. North Carolina also scored 86 and the Tar Heels won by 21.

But when it came time to stop Tennessee, they had no answer, giving up more points than any Long Beach State team had since 1991 and very nearly breaking the school record for defensive futility set in 1964 when Cal State Los Angeles scored 123.

Chris Lofton had 25 points, JaJuan Smith had 24 and Ramar Smith had 22. Duke Crews had 12 points and 11 rebounds. Asked what Tennessee did to cause problems, Long Beach State guard Kevin Houston was succinct.

"Hitting jump shots," he said.

Tennessee was up, 57-45, at halftime, then started the second half with a three-pointer by Lofton, three easy layups and an offensive rebound tip-in. Two minutes 29 seconds after halftime, the Volunteers were up, 69-47, and the 49ers were done. Tennessee out-rebounded Long Beach, 43-23.

Volunteers Coach Bruce Pearl said his team's ability to exploit the Long Beach State defense has to do with playing in "the SEC and the kind of defenses we see night in and night out."

Ramar Smith, JaJuan Smith and Lofton each had a three-pointer in the opening 1:30 of the game. Wayne Chism had another 1:30 later.

Long Beach State kept pace with three-pointers by Kejuan Johnson and Houston. Three minutes 10 seconds into the game, there had been a combined six three-pointers made and Tennessee held a 14-8 lead.

But the Volunteers discovered the inside was open too. So, not only did they make their first six three-pointers, they made 12 of their first 16 shots and opened a 31-14 lead with 11:59 left in the first half.

Long Beach answered with -- what else? -- the long ball. Nixon made three three-pointers and Johnson had another to help pull the 49ers to within six points, 41-35, with 4:38 left in the half.

That was as close as they'd get, however, and when the final horn went off, the team's eight seniors walked off a court for the final time as 49ers. Larry Reynolds, who is awaiting word on whether his contract will be extended, might have coached his last Long Beach State game.

He said he would meet with Athletic Director Vic Cegles and school President F. King Alexander "in time" to discuss his future.

"The gentlemen that are in charge of that ... will make the best decision for Long Beach State and Long Beach State basketball," Reynolds said.

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