Long Beach State believes it can be great. The season just started, so anything still seems possible.
But in their first three games, the 49ers were less than even OK against a decent opponent. If the 49ers were ever going to make a move, they knew they better make some progress first . . . and soon.
Long Beach earned its first victory against a quality opponent Wednesday, rallying for a 71-66 nonconference victory over Hawaii before 3,089 at the Pyramid.
The Rainbows (2-1) took a 60-55 lead on a jumper by guard Alika Smith with 6:27 to play in the game. The Rainbows beat the 49ers for rebounds throughout the game and seemed in control once point guard Anthony Harris and Smith got going.
But Long Beach's defense was too much for Hawaii. Guard James Cotton tied the game at 62-62 on a three-pointer with 5:13 left. Forward Akeli Jackson and Cotton then took over for Long Beach (2-2).
Jackson and Cotton each finished with 15 points. Harris led Hawaii with 19.
Long Beach point guard Rasul Salahuddin played a strong defensive first half and finished with 14 points.
Salahuddin helped Long Beach take a 28-20 lead when he grabbed a loose ball and passed to Jackson for a fast-break dunk with 6:23 to play before halftime. But the Rainbows rallied to tie it at the half, 35-35.
"It's very frustrating to know we have all this potential and we're not using it right now," forward Juaquin Hawkins said. "But any successful team has some adversity at some point of the year.
"Maybe this is just our time now. Hopefully that's it. It's sure better to have it now than when league starts."