LONG BEACH, Calif. – Sophomore Lassina Traore impressed in his debut with a double-double, leading for players for Long Beach State in double figures as the Beach recovered from a slow start to move past Biola 73-71 in an early open exhibition.
In one of the earliest games on the calendar in school history, the Beach hosted Biola for the second straight year, and the familiarity served the Eagles well as they came out strong. Daniel Esparza, who was the high scorer on the evening with 24 points, came out on fire, hitting five 3-pointers in the first half and getting the visitors going early as Biola took a 16-6 lead after the first five minutes.
The Eagles weren’t able to significantly increase their lead from there, but Long Beach State didn’t do much damage either in the first half, and Biola led 41-29 at the break.
Long Beach State’s sophomore leaders helped pull back the Beach in the second half. Jadon Joneswho missed much of the first half with foul trouble, quickly hit four free throws and then an Aboubacar fast break basket helped cut the lead to six at 44-38.
Later on the half, down 59-54, Long Beach State made their key run of the ballgame, sparked by a putback dunk from Chayce Polynice. A turnover and a fast break bucket from Aboubacar Traore with an and one tied the game, and then a Jones three put the Beach on top for good.
A late three made things interesting as Biola cut the lead to one at 72-71 with 1:21 to play, but a stop and a Jones steal in the final two defensive possessions closed out the win.
Long Beach State played without last year’s leading scorer and First Team All-Big West selection as a precaution for a minor injury. In his absence, Lassina Traore played big minutes and recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Aboubacar Traore was the team’s leading scorer with 15 points and six rebounds, just in front of Jones who added 14, all in the second half. Tone Hunter played point for most of the contest, finishing with 11 points and four assists.
The Beach will be on the road next, traveling to take on California Baptist in the team’s opener on November 7. After a trip to UCLA, the team will then prepare for a massive home opener, as the Beach hosts Montana State on Sunday, November 19.