UC Santa Barbara (20-6, 9-3) will travel to UC Irvine (14-15, 9-4) on Thursday in a battle for first place in the men's basketball standings. The game will be televised on Prime Ticket at 7:30 p.m.
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And The Race Tightens Again
UC Santa Barbara had a one and a half game lead on UC Davis and UC Irvine entering Saturday’s home contest against the Aggies, seeking to add more distance in the standings to one of its closest pursuers. The Gauchos had won 11 straight games in the Thunderdome and eight in a row overall.
And they got reeled back in with a 17-point loss thanks to an Aggie squad that shot a torrid 54.9% from the field and thwarted the normally potent UCSB offense, holding the Gauchos to their second worst shooting performance of the season at 33.3%.
With two weeks remaining in the regular season, five teams are within two games of first place. UCSB (9-3) clings to a one-half game lead on 9-4 UC Davis and UC Irvine. Cal State Fullerton (8-4) is one game back and Long Beach State (7-5) faces a two-game deficit.
First place will be on the line Thursday when UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine clash. Prime Ticket will televise the action at 7:30 p.m. from the Bren Events Center. The Anteaters are looking to become the fifth different team to occupy first place in the Big West this season. CSF, UC Davis, UCSB and Hawai‘i all have had stints in the catbird seat.
With 20 victories, UC Santa Barbara has more than three times its six-win total from 2016-17. The +14 improvement in the win column is tops in the country. Moreover, that +14 also ties for the third-best year-over-year improvement in Big West history. The record for biggest turnaround in the “W” column is +16 – shared by Utah State (1981-82 to 1982-83) and UC Davis (2013-14 to 2014-15).
On The Tube, On The Tablet
Four games will be available this week via Big West broadcast partners.
Wed., Feb. 21 – Cal State Fullerton at UC Riverside
Sat., Feb. 24 – UC Santa Barbara at CSUN
Thur., Feb. 22 – UC Santa Barbara at UC Irvine
Sat., Feb. 24 – Long Beach State at Cal State Fullerton
The top four teams in the standings all have at least four road wins in conference play – led by UC Davis and UC Irvine which are each 5-2. Over the last five seasons, UCI is the Big West’s best road squad in terms of overall victories (28) and winning percentage (.718) based off of its 28-11 record. Over that same span, otther teams with winning road records in conference play include UCSB (21-17), Hawai‘i (20-18) and LBSU (19-18).
Titans Clinch Winning Campaign
At 15-9 overall, Cal State Fullerton has clinched its second consecutive winning campaign under head coach Dedrique Taylor. The Titans last had back-to-back winning seasons in 2006-07 and 2007-08.
ACTIVE BIG WEST COACHING RECORDS
Dan Monson, Long Beach State
Russell Turner, UC Irvine
Same as school
Joe Callero, Cal Poly
Jim Les, UC Davis
Dedrique Taylor, Cal State Fullerton
Same as school
Eran Ganot, Hawai‘i
Reggie Theus, CSUN
Joe Pasternack, UC Santa Barbara
Justin Bell, UC Riverside
Same as school
PRIOR TO TIPOFF
CAL STATE FULLERTON AT UC RIVERSIDE (WatchESPN) - Cal State Fullerton is 6-2 at the SRC Arena in the last eight seasons. UC Riverside is trying to end a 12-game losing streak at home against Big West opponents. Titan sophomore Jackson Rowe flirted with a triple-double in his last outing against CSUN, finishing with 16 points, nine rebounds and a career-high eight assists. UC Riverside is No. 2 in conference play in field goal percentage defense (.426), while CSF is tops in field goal efficiency, shooting at a 48.7% clip. PXP: Sam Farber • ANALYST: Dave Miller • SIDELINE: Rahshaun Haylock
CSUN AT CAL POLY (BigWest.TV) - A game with Big West Tournament seeding ramifcations, as Cal Poly and CSUN are currently tied for seventh place at 3-10 overall. The Matadors attempt to sweep the season series and gain a huge head-to-head tiebreaker for tournament seeding purposes. Both clubs sit just one-half game ahead of UC Riverside. Only eight teams qualify for the Big West Tournament March 8-10 at Honda Center.
UC SANTA BARBARA AT UC IRVINE (PRIME TICKET) - UC Irvine is 5-2 against UCSB at home during the Russell Turner era. The Anteaters have allowed just three teams to score 70 points or more in Big West play – and UCSB was one of them in a 70-58 loss on Jan. 20 in Santa Barbara. The ‘Eaters have held seven straight opponents under the 70-point mark – and are 6-1 over that stretch. Sophomore Max Heidegger is tied for No. 4 on UCSB’s single-season three-point makes list with 78, and is three shy of the No. 3 spot. Forward Leland King II leads the Big West with 13 double-doubles. PXP: Sam Farber • ANALYST: Corey Maggette • SIDELINE: Rahshaun Haylock
LONG BEACH STATE AT HAWAI‘I (BIGWEST.TV) - Hawai‘i ended a five-game losing streak last week with two close road wins over UC Irvine and UC Riverside. The Rainbow Warriors are a conference-best 7-3 in games decided by five points or less. UH tied a school record with 14 three-point baskets in the win at UCR. Long Beach State senior Gabe Levin has a streak of 30 consecutive made free throws, including 19-for-19 over his last two games. These two teams combined for 221 points in last year’s meeting in Honolulu, with UH prevailing 114-107 in overtime.