To some it may seem like yesterday, but it’s actually been 23 years since Long Beach State’s unranked basketball team stunned the No. 1-ranked Kansas Jayhawks 64-49 at Allen Fieldhouse.
None of the current KU players, who will play host to the 49ers at 7 p.m., Tuesday, had yet been born on Jan. 25, 1993 — the day current ESPN announcer Seth Greenberg’s 49ers squad staked claim to what’s been called the biggest win in Long Beach State history.
It’s a game that’s gone down in KU infamy, considering the Roy Williams-led Jayhawks, who had won 52 of their previous 54 home games, entered as 15-point favorites yet never really threatened in falling behind by 18 points at halftime.
“They didn’t just beat us. They beat us bad,” former KU guard Rex Walters said at the time after a game in which the Jayhawks — who had averaged 90.7 points per outing in racing to a 16-1 record — totaled a mere five assists.
Never miss a local story.
Long Beach State, which entered with a 13-3 record, had been ranked earlier in the 1992-93 season, but was reeling after losing to VCU by 35 points just two days before the KU contest.
“They kicked our tail pretty good that night,” Walters, current coach of the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Drive of the NBA Development League, said Sunday, when asked by The Star to revisit that game more than two decades later.
“It was a good lesson for us getting beat at home by Long Beach State. We ended up using that game to make us more hungry and (that) led to a Final Four season for KU,” Walters added.
The Jayhawks fell in the national semifinals to North Carolina that season, while Long Beach State dropped a first-round NCAA Tournament game to Illinois.
Just one team has beaten KU by more than 15 points in Allen since that Long Beach State game. Arizona rolled past the Jayhawks 91-74 in 2003. KU also reached the Final Four that season, Williams’ last at KU.
“That was a good team with two NBA players on it,” Walters said Sunday, referring to Long Beach State’s Lucious Harris (who had 24 points vs. KU) and Bryon Russell. “To be honest,” the ever-competitive Walters added, “I don’t use that game when speaking to my teams (about being ready to play every night).
“We were a good team trying to find ourselves at that point in the season. Although I loved playing with Darrin Hancock (who had 16 points and 13 boards vs. Long Beach), who was probably the quickest/fastest athlete I ever played with, Alonzo Jamison was such a great individual and team defender along with being such a highly skilled, unselfish offensive player, it was taking time getting used to not having Alonzo around.”
KU went 27-5 and won the Big Eight in 1991-92 (Walters’ junior year and Jamison’s senior year) but fell in the second round of the NCAAs to UTEP, then went 29-7 during Walters’ senior season — KU’s first without Jamison.
“We had some ups and downs in 1991-92, but the regular season may have got us a little overconfident going into the NCAA Tourney,” Walters said. “I still believe the ’91-’92 team was the best team in the nation and got upset. My senior season we had much higher expectations and people didn’t understand all that Alonzo did for us.”
Former KU guard/forward Patrick Richey said that home loss to Long Beach State was disappointing, but perhaps not as big an upset as many believed.
“It was rare,” Richey said Monday of KU losing at home, “but they had a couple of pros on that team. Coach Williams was upset. He never handled losing well, especially the next day in practice. We were all upset. Nobody wanted to lose. There was extreme disappointment. We had an off night. Tip your cap to Long Beach State. They had a fantastic game. Their best players got hot and we had an off night. That’s what happens in college basketball sometimes,” added Richey, territory account manager for Panduit.
Williams after that 1993 game had some colorful postgame remarks to the media, including …
▪ “It was a nightmare. That’s all I can say. It was a total breakdown. I’m sorry I can’t analyze it more, but the more you analyze it … fellas, we just got our butts kicked.”
▪ “We lose to them by 15 and they lose to VCU by 35. I don’t really believe VCU is 49 points better than we are, but that’s college basketball.”
▪ “I can never remember sitting over there feeling that helpless. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong.”
▪ “For us to have five assists ... sometimes we have five assists in five minutes.”
Meanwhile, on the winner’s side … the 49ers, who finished that season 22-10, dumped contents of a water jug over Greenberg’s head in the locker room.
“It’s like a dream,” Greenberg told the Lawrence Journal-World that night. “I’m sitting there with 20 seconds on the clock, and we’re winning and the game is about over and … unbelievable. I don’t know what to say. The basketball gods were definitely with us. We made some shots that bounced up and took six seconds to fall through.”
Adding to the craziness of the night, a fan sitting behind the auxiliary scoreboard in the northwest corner of the fieldhouse during the final time out switched the “JAYHAWKS” and “GUEST” signs above the scores, making it seem like KU indeed was winning as everybody had expected.
The fan was ejected even though the game was almost over.
“I think I know who that fan was. I remember that,” Richey said with a laugh.
KU, by the way, has since avenged that home loss to the 49ers. The Jayhawks, in the Bill Self era, defeated Long Beach State, 88-80 ,on Dec. 6, 2011, at Allen Fieldhouse. KU also beat Long Beach State during the Jerry Tarkanian era, 69-52, on Dec. 1, 1970, in Allen. KU won at Long Beach State, 66-60, on Dec. 7, 1991.
Jackson honored again
KU freshman guard Josh Jackson on Monday was chosen Big 12 newcomer of the week for the second consecutive week.
Jackson averaged 17.0 points and 7.3 rebounds as KU posted a 3-0 record with wins against UAB, Georgia and UNC Asheville.
The Detroit native made 51.4 percent of his field goals while adding four blocked shots. He was selected MVP of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic.
Self enjoyed Chiefs’ game
Self stayed up late to watch the Chiefs’ overtime victory over Denver on Sunday night.
“I’m 53, not 83. I did make it through the night to watch the Chiefs play,” Self said with a smile. “It was an unbelievable game, unbelievable. Certainly that and the Michigan-Ohio State football game (Saturday), they go down as my two favorite games so far this year.”
Young to decide in January
Trae Young, a 6-2 senior point guard from Norman (Okla.) North High School, who is ranked No. 14 in the recruiting class of 2017 by Rivals.com, says he will likely announce his college choice in early January.
Young has a list of KU, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.
“I’m going to head to the schools and head to at least one game,” he told Zagsblog.com. “I don’t have a date set yet, but probably early January.”