UC Irvine and UC Davis, the top two teams in the men's basketball standings, square off in northern California Saturday in a battle of premier defensive clubs.
UC Irvine Chases Program Best Start
UC Irvine remained atop the Big West with two commanding road victories last week over Cal Poly and CSUN, winning by an average of 27 points. The Anteaters have equalled their Big West start from a season ago at 6-0. Only two previous UCI squads opened up league play with a better record – 2005-06 (8-0) and 2000-01 (9-0). UCI seeks to match its second-best ever program start with a home game Thursday against Cal Poly and a Saturday road tilt versus UC Davis
UCI’S BEST CONFERENCE PROGRAM STARTS
2000-01 – 9-0
2005-06 – 8-0
2016-17 – 6-0
2015-16 – 6-0
Anteater Win Streak Reaches Eight
UC Irvine is tracking another program benchmark – longest winning streak. The ‘Eaters are riding a current eight-game win streak, which is tied for the third-longest in the school’s Division I history. The 1981-82 squad won nine in a row, and the UCI record is 13, set in 2000-01.
UC Davis In The Mix
UC Davis is 4-1 and in sole possession of second place. The Aggies have tied the start of the 2014-15 regular season champions, a squad that ultimately went 12-1 before losing its second conference game.
And Therefore The Featured Game Is...
UC Irvine travels to UC Davis on Saturday in a matchup between the top two squads in the conference. The ‘Eaters lead the Big West in scoring defense for overall games (65.5 ppg). Meanwhile, the Aggies are the top defensive unit in conference play, allowing just 62.0 points on average. UC Davis seeks to slow down a potent UCI offense that is averaging 82.3 points in conference games. The Aggies are also only remaining undefeated team at home (5-0).
Monson One Away From 100
In his 10th season at Long Beach State, head coach Dan Monson needs one more win become just the seventh coach in history to earn 100 Big West victories. Monson is currently 99-53 in conference games. In addition, he tied UC Irvine’s Bill Mulligan for 10th place on the Big West’s all-time victory list with 163, following Saturday’s come-from-behind overtime triumph at Cal Poly. Next up on the list are Bobby Braswell of CSUN (166) and Utah State’s Stew Morrill (167).
Point Club Watch
Last week, Gabe Vincent became the 28th player in UC Santa Barbara history to reach 1,000 points, as his 18 at UC Riverside gave him 1,010 for his career. CSUN senior Aaron Parks is the next player to approach the milestone. He’s sitting at 977 points, 23 away from joining 18 other Matadors on the exclusive list.
Big West Rise Up Tour Continues At UC Irvine
The Big West Tour sponsored by Fox PrimeTicket and Coors Light returns for 2017, running January 12th through March 2nd. Over the course of the Tour, Big West representatives will make stops at the eight Big West campuses in California, giving fans opportunities to win prizes from the Big West spin wheel. The next stop is at UC Irvine on Jan. 26 and 28. The Big West Men's and Women's Basketball Tournament returns to Honda Center for the 2017 season, the event's 8th year at the Anaheim-based arena. The tournament runs March 9-11, with the women's first and second rounds March 7-8 at Long Beach State's Walter Pyramid and the women's semifinals and finals at Honda Center March 10-11. The entire men's tournament will be played at Honda Center March 9-11.
PRIOR TO TIPOFF
JAN. 25 – CSUN AT UC SANTA BARBARA (BigWest.TV) - UC Santa Barbara has lost five of its last six games. The Gauchos have struggled with shooting all season. Their best field goal percentage was .455 on Nov. 27 at USC. UCSB shot 30.5% (18-for-59) in its last outing versus UC Riverside, including 16.7% (5-for-30) from three. Senior Eric Childress leads all players with 14 steals and a 2.8 steals per game average in league play. After a four-game win streak, CSUN has proceeded to lose three straight. Junior Kendall Smith has scored in double figures in 14 straight games.
JAN. 25 – UC RIVERSIDE AT HAWAI‘I (BigWest.TV) - UC Riverside has reeled off three straight victories after opening conference play 0-2. The Highlanders last won four straight Big West games during the 2011-12 season. UCR pulled off a 77-71 upset in Honolulu last season. Defensively, UCR has held its last three foes – UC Santa Barbara, Cal State Fullerton and UC Davis – under 40 percent shooting and a collective 59-for-180 (32.8%) from the field. Hawai‘i is 2-1 on its current five-game homestand behind the resurgence of Noah Allen, who has scored 25, 30 and 26 points in those games.
JAN. 26 – CAL POLY AT UC IRVINE (ESPN3) - UC Irvine’s balance – 12 players are averaging at least 10 minutes of playing time per game – has been effective all season. However, Jaron Martin is capable of providing a huge offensive lift as his six 20-point games are tied for second in the Big West. PXP: Trent Rush • COLOR: Richie Schueler
JAN. 26 – CAL STATE FULLERTON AT LONG BEACH STATE (PRIME TICKET) - Long Beach State has won the last six meetings in the Walter Pyramid. The Titans last won in Long Beach during the 2009-10 season (81-75 in OT). Roschon Prince ranks second in the Big West with six double-doubles, including in four straight games. Prince had a career-high 25 points with 11 rebounds in the Beach’s OT road victory at Cal Poly. Dan Monson is aiming for his 100th career Big West win. PXP: Mark Rogondino • COLOR: Corey Maggette • SIDELINE: Kaileigh Brant
BIG WEST BY THE NUMBERS
23 - Points needed to reach 1,000 for CSUN senior Aaron Parks.
99 - Career Big West wins for Long Beach State’s Dan Monson.
4 - Consecutive double-doubles by Long Beach State junior Roschon Prince.
Lou Henson Award Watch List
Juniors Justin Bibbins of Long Beach State and Gabe Vincent of UC Santa Barbara represent the Big West on the 50-player Lou Henson Award Preseason Watch List, as announced by online publication CollegeInsider.com. The two guards are up for the award presented annually to the nation’s top mid-major player. Bibbins, a second team all-conference pick last year, registered 164 assists for the third-highest single-season total in 49er history. Vincent, who earned All-Big West Honorable Mention praise, knocked down 80 three-pointers to rank No. 2 on the Gaucho single-season chart.
Long Beach State Earns Media Nod
With 203 points and 19 first-place votes, Long Beach State was the choice of the media to win the 2016-17 Big West men’s basketball regular season title. Head coach Dan Monson’s 49ers, which return three starters and eight letterwinners from last season’s 20-15 club, was cast in the favorite’s role for the first time since the 2012-13 season. In addition to returning Bibbins, LBSU also welcomes back junior forward Gabe Levin, an honorable mention all-conference selection who averaged 9.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Once again, LBSU faces one of the nation’s toughest non-conference schedules with road games against the likes of Wichita State, North Carolina, Louisville, UCLA, Washington, Kansas and Texas.
Graham Nominated For Allstate Good Works Team
UC Davis senior guard Darius Graham was nominated to the 2017 Allstate NABC Good Works Team, which represents the sport’s finest in the areas of community service and leadership among their peers, and recognizes players at all levels of college basketball whose charitable involvement and altruistic acts stand out amongst all other student-athletes participating in the sport. A total of 181 players were recognized from the NABC, and the final 10-member team will be announced in February and be honored during the 2017 NCAA Men’s Final Four® in Phoenix, where they will participate in a community service project benefitting the city. Graham has been involved in the UC Davis Reading Program, which includes more than 23,000 elementary-aged children from 35 schools throughout Yolo and Sacramento counties. In addition, he helped organize food drives, toy drives and classroom visits during his junior season.
Williams, Monson Among Winningest Coaches In Big West History
UC Santa Barbara’s Bob Williams and Long Beach State’s Dan Monson are the two current longest-tenured and winningest head coaches in Big West history. Williams became only the third coach in conference history to reach the 300-win mark when the Gauchos won at UC Riverside on Feb. 18, 2016. He joined Bob Thomason (436 at Pacific) and Jerry Tarkanian (405 at Long Beach State and UNLV) in the exclusive club. Williams, in his 19th season at the helm of the Gauchos, is also third with 182 wins in Big West play. In his 10th season, Dan Monson has compiled 163 wins at Long Beach State, which ties him for 10th all-time in Big West annals with UC Irvine’s Bill Mulligan (163, 1981-91). On the conference wins list, Monson is 99-53 all-time, needing one more victory to become just the seventh coach to reach 100.