Coming off of two early wins in the season, the Arizona Wildcats will host Long Beach State on a Monday night in Tucson.
The 49ers will travel to McKale center riding a two-game losing streak. They opened the season with a close win over North Alabama, but dropped back-to-back decisions against USC and North Carolina.
Long Beach State is coached by Dan Monson, who is entering his sixth season with the 49ers, compiling a 85-77 record in the previous five seasons. Prior to coaching at LBSU, Monson was coaching at Gonzaga and Minnesota.
Leading the 49ers on the floor will be point guard Mike Caffey. The sophomore is averaging a 1-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, but contributes more to his team than assists, as he is also scoring 13.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. He should match up well with Arizona point guard Mark Lyons.
Long Beach State runs an unusual lineup, one that includes a point guard, Caffey, and four forwards. The most productive of the forwards is James Ennis. The senior joined the 49ers last season after transferring from Ventura College. So far this season, he has been one of the best players for Long Beach State, averaging a team-high 16.7 points and 6.3 rebounds. His 6-foot-7 frame may also cause matchup issues for Arizona.
Another of the wings for LBSU is sophomore Kris Gulley. Also standing at 6-foot-7, Gulley has found himself being defended by smaller players this season. The sophomore has been a key starter for the team, contributing 8.3 points per game and six rebounds per game.
The final 6-foot-7 starter is junior Kyle Richardson, who is one of the more underrated players on the court. He is only averaging four points and three rebounds per game. However, the importance that he brings to the court can be seen more in his defensive efforts on the floor.
Rounding out the starting lineup is forward/center Dan Jennings. At 6-foot-9, Jennings is the tallest player to see playing time this season for the 49ers. He has put up six points per game to go along with an assist and a team-high 8.7 rebounds. It will be interesting to see how well he plays against a taller Kaleb Tarczewski.
The first man off the bench for the 48ers should be a sophomore. 6-foot-9 Nick Shepherd is playing just under 22 minutes per game so far and even started a game. However, he hasn’t been productive in his playing time, averaging just 0.7 points and two rebounds per contest.
Peter Pappageorge will spell Caffey at times during the game. The senior guard has seen quality minutes over the first three games of the season, averaging an assist in each. Pappageorge is also contributing 4.7 points and two rebounds. He is also playing well defensively, which will make for interesting matchup with Lyons and Jordin Mayes.
Rounding out the key rotational player is Deng Deng. The freshman has been a key player for the 49ers this season, scoring just under four points a game (3.7). Playing just fifteen minutes a game, Deng has jacked up eleven threes in his playing time this season, the most per minute attempts on the team.
With the 49ers entering Monday’s game on a losing streak, it may make them even more dangerous to the Wildcats. They will be hungry for a win and be trying to make up for a letdown against North Carolina.
One key for Arizona to stay undefeated will be to attack from the perimeter and open up the inside game. With a lead against North Carolina, the 49ers relaxed along the three-point line, allowing the Tar Heels to shoot 7 for 13 from beyond the arc. It was a vital part of the comeback that gave UNC the victory.
With the Wildcats’ firepower, it should be an interesting game. Even with Tarczewski’s size advantage, it is something that has yet to be exploited this season. The outcome could come down to how well Arizona can shoot the ball from the outside.