LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) -- Aaron Nixon scored 22 points and Kevin Houston added 20 as Long Beach State captured its first Big West Conference title in 11 years in an 85-80 victory over UC Irvine Thursday.
Sterling Byrd and Kejuan Johnson scored 12 points apiece for the 49'ers (21-7, 11-2), who will be the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament scheduled to begin March 7 in Anaheim.Mark Kelley scored a career-high 24 points and had nine rebounds for UC Irvine (13-17, 6-8). Nic Campbell added 15 points for the Anteaters, who qualified for the conference tournament but will not know who their opponent will be until the regular season play ends Saturday.The Anteaters scored on their first 10 possessions of the second-half to build a 54-44 lead with 14:45 remaining. Nixon then led Long Beach State's comeback by scoring 14 points over the next eight minutes.Johnson's 3-pointer gave the 49'ers a 69-67 lead with 5:55 left in the game. The 49'ers made seven of eight free throws down the stretch to seal the win.