|Courtesy of Zyaire Porter T.G.Sportstv1|
The Anteaters blocked a season-high 10 shots, which is the second most in Big West Tournament history. Galloway blocked five shots, including a block on a Noah Blackwell drive that stymied a 49er comeback.
“My job, one of them, is to protect the rim,” said Galloway, who scored eight points and grabbed nine rebounds. “As long as my team is doing their job, that allows me to defend and stop the ball.”
Galloway started off the scoring for UC Irvine with two buckets inside, one on a tip and another on a turnaround jumper. Jaron Martin picked up where he left off from the first round by scoring 10 points in the first half that included two three pointers. Martin, who scored a game-high 18 points, also played a key role on defense with three steals.
“We defend first before we think about the offensive side,” said Martin. “As long as we defend and rebound, the main thing for us is getting back in transition. That’s the emphasis, I think we did that pretty good today and I’m proud of the win.”
49ers' Justin Bibbins, started by missing his first six shots but made his final two of the first half. Bibbins shot four of 15 in the game. As a whole, Long Beach State only made 32 percent of their attempts.
“That was the whole focus of our defensive game plan in shoot-around today,” said UC Irvine coach Russell Turner. “Defend his (Bibbins) pick-and-roll. He’s crafty… He’s going to be one of the guys favored to be Player of the Year next year.
The 49ers shooting struggles could very well be attested to the defensive play of the Anteaters, who were contesting every 49ers shot not giving a clean look. UC Irvine led 31-25 at halftime.
Martin made UCI’s first two baskets of the second half and Long Beach State’s deficit, once again, grew to nine points with 17 minutes left in the game, and that’s about the time they started to claw its way back into the contest. They used an 8-0 run to take their first lead since the opening minutes of the game at 46-42.
The Anteaters immediately responded with a seven-point run of their own when Luke Nelson stopped the bleeding with a three pointer followed by a mid-range jumper, he then got out in transition and assisted on a Martin layup. That was the last lead change as the top-seeded Anteaters continued to come up with stops to close the game.
“They defended us well tonight and we battled, but they were better than us,” said Monson. “In the postseason, any three-minute segment can end your season. That one didn’t end our season because we had opportunities after that, but it changed the momentum of the game.”
In what appeared to be a physical first half, there were only 10 total fouls called. The 49ers only made one trip to the line, which was by Bibbins, who sank the pair; Bibbins later made two more and extended his consecutive made free throw streak to 23. Temidayo Yussuf scored 10 points and grabbed 15 rebounds for the 49ers.