Long Beach State sizzled from start to finish to hand Hawaii its first home loss of the Big West Conference season, 92-83 tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center.
It wasn’t the start to a four-game homestand that UH (14-6, 3-3 Big West) envisioned. LBSU (8-12, 3-3) shot 60 percent, a season-high mark for a Rainbow Warriors opponent, and knocked UH off its perch as the last Big West team to avoid a league defeat in its own building.
The ‘Bows made a season-high 11 3-pointers and got double-figure scoring from five players, but 49ers point guard Mike Caffey went for a career-high 29 points on 10-for-14 shooting. Forward A.J. Spencer added a career-best 24 points on 8-for-10 shooting as the 49ers’ X-factor.
Christian Standhardinger and Garrett Nevels led the ‘Bows with 18 points apiece. Isaac Fotu added 16 on 8-for-9 shooting, Brandon Spearman scored 14 and Quincy Smith chipped in 11 off the bench.
LBSU attained a one-point halftime lead by shooting 60 percent from the field in the first period. It kept the onslaught going to open the second half, extending its lead to nine with an 8-0 run.
Standhardinger stopped the bleeding with a corner 3-pointer.
Nevels tied it up at 59 with his third 3, this one from the right wing. Fotu came through for consecutive hoops, once against a double team and once in transition, for UH’s first lead of the second half at 65-64 with 9:08 remaining.
Caffey answered with strong take to the basket for a 67-66 lead with 6:30 to go, and when UH turned it over and Spencer followed with a wild flip shot while taking contact.
Standhardinger responded with a 3-pointer, UH’s 10th of the game, to cut it to 70-69 with under six minutes to play, and another which bounced high and in for a 72-70 UH lead — its last of the game.
LBSU again went up, 76-72 on a steal and two free throws by Tyler Lamb, then pushed its lead to five on a 3-pointer by Caffey with 2:20 to go.
UH turned it over and Lamb converted a layup for a seven-point advantage, but UH came back within moments with a lob from Shamburger to Fotu with 1:37 left to make it 81-76.
Two free throws by LBSU and another lob to Fotu kept the margin the same with 1:24 left. But then the 49ers got a leaner from Spencer on a wild possession and UH had no rebuttal. Caffey sunk two at the line to equal his career-best and UH got no closer.
UH routed The Beach 93-74 in Honolulu last season, and built a 33-point halftime lead in that one. But this time the 49ers answered every highlight play the ‘Bows produced, including an alley-oop lob from Keith Shamburger to Nevels in transition before the break.