Wide-Open Spaces Suit Long Beach State, 80-58


The most memorable thing about Monday night’s nonconference basketball game between Long Beach State and Memphis, was not so much that it was the first college basketball game ever played in the Anaheim Arena, or the fact that Long Beach won, 80-58.

The event was a calculated effort by Long Beach officials to stake a claim in neighboring Orange County, where it’s estimated that as much as half of the school’s 100,000 graduates reside.

Judging by the results, the attempt was a success. More than 500 invited guests showed up for an all-Orange County pregame alumni reception in a room that could hold only 250. And on the court, the 49ers, who have run hot and cold, got off to their best start of the season.


With guard Jeff Rogers contributing five points and a key assist early in the run, the 49ers raced to a 31-9 lead. Reserve forward Jauquin Hawkins added three lay-ins, forward Rod Hannibal had a three-pointer and reserve guard Tyrone Mays picked up five points during the streak.

Meanwhile, the former Memphis State, playing its first game since the Tennessee legislature approved the name change, could make only three of eight field goal attempts.

Still, it was the behind-the-scenes interest in this game that made it so intriguing. After years of frustrated attempts at building name recognition in greater L.A., Long Beach targeted about 10 western Orange County cities, a quarter of a mile inside the Orange Curtain from from its Eastside location, with a weeklong media blitz on local cable television systems and in newspaper advertisements. Officials reasoned that, with their own new gymnasium scheduled to open in time for next season, the Orange County market, only a quarter of a mile away from campus, is too lucrative to pass up any longer.

“This was a good chance for us to get some exposure in the county,” said interim athletic director Dave O’Brien, a resident of Seal Beach. “We felt this would be an opportunity to play in what really is our back yard and that by having a good showing, people here will get involved with Long Beach State.”

O’Brien said Long Beach, which keeps half of all net proceeds from Monday’s game, might play as many as two games a years in county facilities.

That would seem to fit the 49er basketball team just fine. Whether it was the partisan crowd, which sounded louder than announced, or merely the opportunity to play a home game somewhere else than its cramped 1,900-seat campus gym, Long Beach excelled before 8,305.