Men's Basketball, Men's Sports

Freshman phenom Jadon Jones sends Long Beach State to Big West Championship

 

 

HENDERSON, Nev.– With the game tied at 64-64 and only 1.3 seconds left in the semifinals of the Big West Conference Tournament against UC Santa Barbara, Long Beach State’s head coach Dan Monson called a timeout to bring his team into a huddle.

As the team was discussing what to do, freshman Jadon Jones, who had not attempted a shot in the entire second half, spoke up.

“If I get it, it’s going in,” Jones said.

Drew Cobb inbounded the ball to Jones.

1.4 seconds later, the entire LBSU bench ran to the court, mobbing the 6-foot-5 freshman as he sank a three-point shot, sending The Beach to the championship game.

“Nobody expected us to win today except these guys in the locker room,” Monson said. “They obviously believe in themselves because you don’t win a game like that unless you believe in yourself.”

Long Beach will face Cal State Fullerton in the championship game tomorrow at 8:30 p.m. The Beach beat CSUF in their only matchup of the year on Feb. 8 71-61. The winner will move on to the NCAA March Madness tournament in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The entire LBSU bench and cheer team swarmed the court after Jones hit his game-winning three-pointer.
The entire LBSU bench and cheer team swarmed the court after Jones hit his game-winning three-pointer. Photo credit: Big West

Like last night’s game against CSU Bakersfield, Long Beach State’s offense got off to a slow start. However, this time The Beach wasn’t alone.

Neither team scored for the first two and a half minutes of the game. Both teams were streaky in the first half.

The Gauchos and The Beach both experienced prolonged scoring droughts, including a five-minute stretch for LBSU. The teams traded 6-0 runs back and forth through the first period.

The Gauchos shot better from the three-point line, going 6-13 while Long Beach was only 2-8 from behind the paint in the first half. UCSB also played better in transition, getting six fastbreak points.

Guard Joel Murray was unusually quiet the whole game, going 3-15 from the field and only scoring seven points in total.

UCSB grabbed a double-digit lead late in the first half 37-26, but The Beach were able to go on one last 6-0 last run to close the gap 37-32, and swing the momentum their way.

Freshman Aboubacar Traore had 8 defensive rebounds on the night and 9 overall.
Freshman Aboubacar Traore had 8 defensive rebounds on the night and 9 overall. Photo credit: Big West

The momentum seemed to stay in LBSU’s favor coming out of halftime. Big West Player of the Year Colin Slater made six points in a row, giving Long Beach a 38-37 lead.

However, reminiscent to the first half, UCSB responded with an 8-0 run to retake the lead by seven.

Like The Beach did in that half, UCSB experienced a scoring drought of more than three minutes. Long Beach State was able to tie the game up 49-49.

From there on out, The Beach and The Gauchos traded points back and forth for the final eight minutes of the game setting up Jones’s heroics.

“Coach put me out there because he believes in me,” Jones said. “[The team] always has my back no matter what shot I shoot. They believe in me, they trust me, I’m out there for a reason.”

Similar to what the team has done most of the season, they regrouped at halftime, dissected what the other team was doing and played better as a result of it.

“We always say ‘second half is us,’” Monson said. “Our stats bear that out. We are a better offensive team in the second half.”

Slater had an incredible second half and was the main reason The Beach was able to stay in the game. The senior from New Orleans scored 22 points in the second period and was a perfect 8-8 from the free-throw line.

Colin Slater kept The Beach within striking distance the entire night. The senior scored 22 points in the second half.
Colin Slater kept The Beach within striking distance the entire night. The senior scored 22 points in the second half. Photo credit: Big West

“We’re always the underdog,” Slater said. “I feel hungry every time I play and I feel like we got something to prove every single time we touch the floor.”

The Beach will look to return to the Big Dance for the first time in 10 years. The game will be livestreamed on ESPN+ or you can follow our Twitter for updates.

“I can’t remember a season that I’ve enjoyed as much as this one,” Monson said.

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