UC Irvine Heads Out On Road With Big West Winning Streak Intact
Having sprinted out to a 4-0 Big West start, the UC Irvine men's basketball team tries to stay undefeated against conference opposition with a pair of road games this week. The Anteaters take on UC Riverside on Thursday and face rival Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, needing a pair of wins to match the program's best Big West start since the 2001-02 season. The Anteater-Highlander contest marks the first of a seven-game regular season television package by Southern California-based KVMD-TV.
After losing five straight and six of seven, the Anteaters have rebounded with their current four-game winning streak. UCI climbed back to the .500 mark with last week's victories versus Cal State Northridge and Pacific. The Anteaters embark on a stretch where they play five of their next six games on the road. Against the Highlanders, UCI leads the all-time series 20-16 but has lost in Riverside in each of the last two seasons. UCI and CSF have split the season series for three straight years with the Titans holding a 42-37 edge all-time.
Cal State Fullerton holds down the second place spot by one-half game over three schools. The Titans play five of their next six league games at home after spending 10 of their first 14 contests on the road. Prior to Saturday's encounter with UCI, they also battle Long Beach State on Thursday in a showdown of the Big West's top two offenses. The 49ers are averaging 81.3 points per game and the Titans post 78.6. Long Beach State has picked up steam with wins in five of its last seven contests, including a 2-2 start in conference action. LBSU leads CSF in the all-time series 52-36 but the Titans have won four of the last six meetings.
LBSU, playing four of its next five games on the road, closes out the week at UC Riverside on Saturday in a game televised by FSN West 2. That is the first game of a seven-game regular season package with the network. LBSU snapped a five-game losing streak to the Highlanders with a 58-56 win in their last encounter.
Central Coast rivals UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly tangle on Saturday in the only game of the week for both teams. The Gauchos have won four straight and 14 of the last 16 games in the series, but trail the Mustangs by one game in the standings. UCSB had lost nine straight road games before defeating UC Davis by 14 points last Saturday. The Mustangs have lost two straight Big West games after opening league play 2-0, but play their next four contests at home.
Pacific and Cal State Northridge take a break from Big West play this week to host future conference member UC Davis. The Aggies face the Tigers on Thursday and the Matadors on Saturday. With two Big West losses, Pacific has suffered more conference setbacks than in the last two seasons combined. The Matadors are reeling after having lost five of their last six games. The schedule gets even more difficult for CSUN as seven of its next 10 games are on the road.