Saturday’s Long Beach State-UC Davis basketball game was played at a furious and frantic pace, but the 49er’s Deishuan Booker was as cool as a Kamasi Washington jazz riff.
The senior guard made 19 of 20 free throws in the game and all 17 he took in the second half as the 49ers rallied from an 11-point first-half deficit to take an 82-77 win over UC Davis at the Pyramid Saturday in their Big West opener.
Booker was the leader of a team that walked the free-throw line decisively. After missing 5 of 13 free throws in the first half, they sank 24 of 29 in the second. Eighteen of their final 22 points in the game came via the free throw.
Booker led the 49ers with 32 points – he was 6-of-11 from the field – and got help from Edon Maxhuni (25 points, three 3-pointers), Jordan Roberts (11) and KJ Byers (10). Masson Riggins had 12 rebounds on a day when fellow big man Temidayo Yussuf sat out with a knee injury.
“You’re always happy when your players play the way as asked and are so coachable,’’ head coach Dan Monson said. “Booker and (Drew) Cobb were great, Deishuan keeping us together and Cobb doing a great job on (Davis’) TJ Shorts II.
“We were a little frustrated on the first half but it wasn’t the kind of effort that made a coach mad. Davis did a good job. But we started the the second half without any panic.’’
Trailing 35-27, the 49ers (7-10, 1-0 Big West) put together a series of defensive stops and some fouls by Davis into a 17-2 run to take a 44-40 lead. They extended the lead to 10 at 55-45 with about 10 minutes to go.
“I’m pretty confident at the free-throw line,’’ Booker said. “I see myself making those shots in my mind so I’m comfortable when I get to the line.’’
“I think our nonconference games helped us in these situations,’’ said Cobb, who has started the last two games. “We’ve learned to get comfortable in whatever situation we’re in.’’
Five different players scored on the 17-2 run, with Booker, Bryan Alberts and Maxhuni scoring 3-pointers, and the 49ers led 44-37. The win was the 49ers fourth in their last five games.
They extended the lead to as much as 10 points a 55-45 after a Maxhuni 3-pointer. But Davis, playing its second in three nights, went on its own 13-4 run sparked by three baskets by Shorts and two 3-pointers by Joe Mooney to take a one-point lead at 59-58 with 5:43 left.
The rest of the game was a walk to the line for the 49ers and Booker.
Booker scored on a drive and sank three free throws to give the 49ers a lead they never gave up.
Davis fought to stay in the game but couldn’t avoid several player control fouls in a game in which four Aggies – AJ John, Rogers Printup, Garrison Goode and Siler Schneider – eventually fouled out.
A rebound putback and free throw gave Byers a three-point play to push the lead to 68-61. The Aggies got within four points five times and three points once but never could crest the lead.
Mooney led the Aggies (4-12, 0-2), who lost to UC Irvine Thursday in overtime, with 29 points with seven 3-pointers, and Shorts had 19.
Davis committed 33 fouls and had 18 turnovers in the game, but also shot 48 percent, had 13 assists and nine steals.
The 49ers shot 13-for-21 in the second half, with five of them 3-pointers.
The 49ers were held to just seven offensive rebounds and also had 18 turnovers, but had seven assists and eight steals, five by Booker.
The 49ers grabbed a quick 5-0 lead but Jordan Roberts had a fitful few minutes, going 0-2 with two fouls and three turnovers and UC Davis went on an 18-2 run that gave the Aggies a nine-point lead at 16-7.
The 49ers play at UC Irvine Wednesday (7 p.m., ESPN3) and host Fullerton Saturday (7 p.m.).
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