Long Beach State was anticipating the return of three transfers to their team to bolster their depth. As it turned out, only one, Edgar Garibay, ended up being eligible for this contest. As a result, the depth problems for LBSU we had mentioned earlier hurt the 49ers when Dan Jennings and James Ennis both picked up their fourth fouls midway through the second half and had to sit during a decisive second half run for the Bruins that finally put their opposition away.
The foul trouble and lack of depth for the 49ers and 7 first half steals for the Bruins were enough to finally pull away from LBSU. There are a couple of emerging trends that have developed over the past few games that we should address here:
1. The evolution of Travis Wear
Travis Wear is currently our starting 5. As such, how he meshes in the offense goes a long way toward determining how the offense flows because in reputation and in deed he has been a rather selfish player. Well over the past couple of games we have seen a different Travis Wear. We see a player that has accepted his role behind Jordan Adams and Shabazz Muhammad (both had big scoring games tonight) and he has matched his season high in assists from last game (2) giving him 9 on the year. Sure, that's nothing all that impressive, but it's the mentality and the willingness to not take every bad shot that comes his way that is making the offense look a little better. On offense, I'll take this Travis Wear for the rest of the year.
2. Our interior defense is a sieve
This isn't so much an emerging trend as it is a season long malady that virtually ensures that we will lose games we should win and make close games out of games we should be winning handily. The Bruins are gracious enough to make stars out of unheralded players and tonight that man was Dan Jennings who went from a 9 point per game player to put up 27 points on 13-15 FGs. It doesn't really matter what kind of player is challenging our bigs either. Jennings is a player that matches our frontline in size and outweighs the Wears and Anderson and he proved to be unstoppable. We've had guards and swingmen in past games get inside and muscle and bully their way to the basket. Yes, that's a problem of scheme (bad M2M defense specifically) but also a lack of interior presence.
The lack of having a stout anchor that can change or challenge shots inside gives the entire opposing team a green light to waltz to the basket or dump it inside and go to work, and is another reason why the M2M just isn't working out right now. Today, the Bruin defense looked more active, but it was because we were getting steals and playing in the passing lanes. This kind of gambling is how you can go into halftime up 9 while allowing the opponent to shoot 52%. It's great when you can get steals, but it does not seem to be a sustainable way to win games. It's telling that after the first half, the turnovers for LBSU stopped and they played the Bruins to a draw until Ennis and Jennings had to sit. I don't know what the alternatives are at this point, but the only one with any potential to get there at some point this season is Tony Parker and he's parked pretty firmly on the bench. This looks to be a problem Howland is just going to hope and pray doesn't burn him again. Not an admirable position by any means.