The time is upon us. If UCI is going to build any credibility on the “David vs. Goliath” theme or even the “Giant Killer” motif, they’re going to need to put up a good effort against Long Beach State, a game televised on ESPN3 and ESPNU (tape delay). Both bands are in attendance here at the Honda Center, as well as a sizable crowd of Long Beach State fans. No UCI fans in sight… yet. If you’re reading this and within 20 minutes drive to the Honda Center, stop reading now and head on over.

With that being said, after the jump are some keys to the game if UCI is going to have a chance.

  • Neutralize Long Beach’s inside game.Without Larry Anderson (out with a knee injury), Long Beach is going to look to TJ Robinson and Eugene Phelps even more than usual. In last year’s Big West Tournament, Robinson killed the UCI bigs by repeatedly getting to the line, almost single-handedly winning the game for the 49ers. Phelps had a great game yesterday against UC Davis.
  • Stop Ware from distributing. When UCI has beaten the 49ers in recent years, it’s because of the good job they’ve done against Long Beach’s star point guard. Although Ware is spreading the ball around less this year, stopping him from creating easy baskets for the 49ers will be huge. Also, let’s hope that Ware doesn’t have one of his on-fire shooting nights.
  • Get One of Long Beach’s Stars in Foul Trouble. Without Anderson, the 49ers have less depth than usual. If they could get Phelps or Robinson in foul trouble early (Ware is less likely), the 49ers may be forced to go to their inexperienced bench.
  • Limit Turnovers. UCI can’t afford to give Long Beach any easy baskets in transition. They absolutely need to make Long Beach earn everything they get.
  • Shoot Lights Out. This is probably the most obvious element to UCI’s game that needs to happen. When the UCI offense has gone cold in games this season, the result has been a deterioration in other facets of their game. If they make some baskets early on, it will boost everyone’s confidence and lift UCI’s entire game. We’re looking at you, Chris McNealy.

Rip’em Eaters! We owe Long Beach State still from their heartbreaking buzzer beater against UCI in 2006, when Aaron Nixon broke Eater Nation’s collective heart.