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COLLEGE BASKETBALL

49ers find way around one of many roadblocks

Long Beach State 67, Pepperdine 58

November 18, 2009|Ben Bolch

If Long Beach State thinks playing on the road against Pepperdine before a smattering of fans is tough, just wait.

There will be far more hostile environments and certainly more daunting opponents ahead. Ever heard of a little place called Cameron Indoor Stadium?

The road ahead could be a long and thankless one for the 49ers if their 67-58 victory over Pepperdine on Tuesday night at Firestone Fieldhouse is any indication.

Long Beach State (2-0) needed a flourish to finish off the pesky Waves (0-2), who pulled down 21 more rebounds than the 49ers and stayed within striking distance until midway through the second half.

"They're a good rebounding team, but we made them a great rebounding team," Coach Dan Monson said. "And that's really disappointing because on the road, as I told our guys, you've got to control what you can control and not let teams have a feeding frenzy."

The damage was mitigated by the fact that Pepperdine made only 30.8% of its shots, with sophomore guard Keion Bell scoring 21 points on eight-for-20 shooting and junior forward Mychel Thompson missing consecutive layups midway through the second half.

Long Beach State sophomore guard Larry Anderson scored seven of his team-high 20 points during a crucial stretch early in the second half. It started with a three-point basket and ended with two dunks off Pepperdine turnovers.

"Momentum," Anderson said. "It's as simple as that."

Suddenly a two-point Waves lead was a five-point deficit and the 49ers were on their way to their first victory here since 1986 following five consecutive defeats.

But a triumph over a team picked to finish seventh in the West Coast Conference might not mean much for the 49ers as they embark on a stretch in which they play four teams ranked in the Associated Press' top 10 by the end of next month. Three of the games are on the road and the other is at the Anaheim Convention Center.

"We're not ready," Monson said. "But there's nothing we can do about it. We have to go play them and hopefully more good will come out of it than bad."

Long Beach State, which starts four sophomores and a senior, could grow up considerably over the next few weeks. After playing at Notre Dame on Thursday, the 49ers' schedule includes No. 8 West Virginia, No. 3 Texas, No. 4 Kentucky, No. 9 Duke and No. 22 Clemson or Texas A&M before the start of Big West Conference play.

"Once we get there, we'll be ready," Anderson said of playing in places such as Rupp Arena. "We've got a tough crew. We're not intimidated. We know we're a good team if we do what our coaches say."

Success could require a lot of listening. The 49ers are 17-63 all-time against ranked opponents, with 13 consecutive losses, and their last victory over a ranked foe came in February 1994 against New Mexico State.

Nevertheless, Monson said he was pleased that his players responded to the challenge Tuesday.

"We did a lot of good things when we were tough enough to stand up to them," Monson said. "But as I said, 'This isn't [Notre Dame forward] Luke Harangody out there either.' "

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ben.bolch@latimes.com

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