Hawaii faces travel-challenged Long Beach State

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Jan. 14—The nation's quickest-paced basketball team endured a travel delay that might impact tonight's game in SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center.

The nation's quickest-paced basketball team endured a travel delay that might impact tonight's game in SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center.

Long Beach State was scheduled to arrive in Honolulu on Friday afternoon ahead of tonight's Big West game against Hawaii. But a mechanical problem postponed the non-stop flight's departure out of Los Angeles International Airport from 10 a.m. Pacific time to 11 p.m., meaning the Beach would arrive this morning at about 3 Hawaii time.

"We'll be like an NBA team, " coach Dan Monson said of the Beach, who are 8-9 overall and 2-3 in the Big West. "Roll into the game and see what happens."

If another delay further shortens the preparation time, the Beach might ask league officials to consider postponing the game until Sunday night.

"For us, (Sunday ) would work, " Monson said. "For them, I'm not sure." The Rainbow Warriors play host to Cal State Northridge on Monday.

Monson said the initial plan was to travel to Hawaii on Thursday. But the Beach had to push back travel plans a day after agreeing to a request to move the game against Cal Poly from Wednesday to Thursday. Because of heavy rain and flooding in California, Cal Poly wanted to wait an extra day before navigating the 220-mile route between its San Luis Obispo campus and Long Beach.

The Beach gathered at Walter Pyramid, their home court, early Friday morning when they were told about the 13-hour delay in departure. A possibility was to travel in two groups. "But if one doesn't go, you have half the team here and half the team there, " Monson said. "We didn't want to do that."

Instead, the Beach held a practice in Walter Pyramid on Friday morning. They were set to reconvene Friday evening, then make the drive to LAX.

"It is what it is, " Monson said. "Our basketball issues are worse than our travel issues."

According to Kenpom.com, the Beach's average of 14.7 seconds per possession was the briefest of the 351 Division I teams. The Beach also average 73.0 possessions per 40 minutes. But Monson said LBSU has been slowed by injuries and inconsistent defense.

Point guard Joel Murray, who was the league's top scorer last season, did not play against Cal Poly because of a wrist injury. His availability is doubtful for tonight's game. Off guard Marcus Tsohonis has been sidelined because of an ankle injury. Even before those injuries to their two leading scorers, the Beach focused on tightening their defense in league competition.

In 12 non-league games, opponents averaged 71.4 points on 40.1 % shooting. In the first four of five Big West games, opponents scored 79.8 points on 43.9 % shooting, including 35.6 % on 3s.

"We got into league, and we weren't ready defensively to the level we have to be to compete in this league, " Monson said. "We've done nothing but try to remedy that the last 10 days, two weeks. I think the injuries have solidified that (approach ), at least in these guys' minds, that defense is our only chance to get better, no matter who's out there."

Forwards Lassina Traore and Aboubacar have combined to grab 47.2 % of the Beach's rebounds, including 59.3 % of the offensive boards.

"But it's an individual thing, " Monson said. "The guards and wings think those two are going to get every rebound. At the end of the day, it's not going to be an advantage. We should be better (overall ) with those two guys rebounding."