LONG BEACH — Seventh-year Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson must have given his 49ers a heckuva halftime pep talk on Saturday.
After the UC Davis men’s basketball team played its finest half of the season to open the game, Long Beach incredibly rolled off 30 consecutive points to start the second period of its 99-74 Big West Conference win over the Aggies at the Walter Pyramid.
UCD (5-12, 0-2) limited the 49ers’ top three scorers (who average 40 points per game combined) to just six total points before the break, while itself shooting 53.6 percent from the field and 53.3 percent from 3-point range. The Aggies entered halftime with a 44-40 advantage.
But, paced by Travis Hammonds’ 20 points, the 49ers improved to 5-11 overall and 1-1 in Big West play.
Junior guard Ryan Sypkens connected on 6-of-10 shots from beyond the arc, added another field goal and sank his only free throw to lead the locals in scoring with 21 points.
Bolstered by his 12-point first-half effort, Corey Hawkins finished just shy of his UCD teammate’s total with 19 points. And, returning to his hometown for the first time in an Aggie uniform, junior guard Avery Johnson scored seven points, grabbed three rebounds, blocked one shot and notched one steal.
Johnson grew up in Long Beach and attended Ocean View High School in Huntington Beach, just a short drive south of the Walter Pyramid.
“We played a really good first half because everyone contributed; everybody played to their role and strengths,” UCD coach Jim Les said. “In the second half, I thought we got away from that. You cannot afford to do that, especially on the road.”
Led by Hawkins and Sypkens, who canned five treys in the first half, seven of the eight Aggies who saw action scored a field goal. That group included Iggy Nujic, who collected three rebounds before intermission to help UCD nearly match the 49ers’ first-half rebound total.
Of the Aggies’ 26 rebounds, 15 were earned in the first 20 minutes of the game. Long Beach entered the locker room at halftime with 16.
Once action resumed, the hosts erased the deficit and built a 26-point lead before UCD was able to score its first points of the half — a pair of free throws by Hawkins more than eight minutes into the period.
After that, the final 11 minutes of the game mirrored the up-and-down pace of the first half, with the two teams trading baskets from 2- and 3-point range and the Aggies actually outscoring the 49ers, 30-29, during that stretch.
UCD will try to get its first Big West victory during an upcoming three-game homestand that begins Thursday (7 p.m.) against UC Riverside. Cal State Fullerton visits on Saturday and Hawaii is at The Pavilion on Jan. 23.
“We need to clean some things up, put this game aside and win some games at home,” Les said.
Notes: In other conference matchups Saturday, Cal Poly improved to 2-0 with a 72-64 win at UC Santa Barbara, visiting UC Irvine topped UC Riverside, 72-52, and host Cal State Northridge edged Hawaii, 79-78.