League Race Tightens as Midway Point Approaches
Files associated with this release:
Men's Basketball Release No. 12
Pacific is among a logjam of five teams tied for third place and in the chase for the top spot inhabited by Long Beach State. The Tigers host the 49ers in a key conference matchup on Wednesday as head coach Bob Thomason enters the week just two wins shy of career No. 400 at Pacific.
KEEP AN EYE ON
Darren Moore, UC Irvine
Moore scored 21 points in UC Irvine’s win against first place Long Beach State on Saturday to mark the fourth time in the last seven games that the senior has topped the 20-point plateau. Moore ranks third in the Big West in scoring (16.8 ppg), tops the circuit in steals (2.1 spg) and is fourth in field goal percentage (.492). He had hit 16 straight free throws before missing against the 49ers and eventually finishing that game 10 of 12 at the charity stripe. Moore has been instrumental in establishing UCI as the Big West’s leader in scoring offense (75.2 ppg).
Long Beach State Returns To The Pack
The rest of the Big West gained ground on league-leading Long Beach State after Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine pinned defeats on the 49ers last week. The 6-0 conference start, the best for the program since winning nine straight to begin the 1999-2000 league schedule, ended abruptly after the 49ers allowed both the Titans and Anteaters to shoot 50 percent or better. LBSU (11-10, 6-2) still leads second place Cal Poly (8-10, 4-3) by a game and a half but faces a tough road test in Pacific on Wednesday. The 49ers then eagerly await a Saturday rematch with Cal State Fullerton that Fox Sports West will televise at 7:30 p.m. Five teams are tied for third place with .500 records, including CSF, which at 4-4 has played two more games than the other tied teams.
Titans Tame Projected Leaders
Cal State Fullerton, picked to finish seventh in the media preseason poll, turned more than a few prognosticator heads after last week’s results. The Titans knocked off the Big West’s predicted one-two finishers – UC Santa Barbara (63-58) and Long Beach State (89-87) – at home in a loud reminder that there are no guarantees on the league schedule. Earlier at home this season, CSF also toppled Pacific, the team picked to finish third in the media poll. Not so strangely, the Titans suffered their only home conference defeat to last place UC Davis in the Big West opener on Dec. 28.
Blue-Green Rivalry Renews This Week
The Blue-Green Rivalry between Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara takes center stage when the two conference contenders meet in San Luis Obispo on Thursday. The game will be televised locally on the Central Coast on KSBY-TV. The second place Mustangs look to put some distance on the Gauchos, which are 3-3 in league play. UCSB is in danger of equalling its total number of league losses from last season prior to even reaching the midway point.
Three More Set To Join 1,000 Point Club
Long Beach State junior Casper Ware, Pacific senior Sam Willard and UC Santa Barbara junior James Nunnally are all closing in personal milestones as members of the 1,000-point club. Ware is only 10 away from becoming the 19th 49er to score 1,000 career points. Willard enters the week with 986 career points, needing 14 more to become the 26th player in school history to accomplish the feat. Nunnally, the Big West’s No. 2 scorer (18.2 ppg), aims to be the 24th Gaucho to join the heralded list. He currently has scored 980 career points. Five Big West players already have reached the milestone this season – UC Davis teammates Joe Harden and Mark Payne, Long Beach State’s T.J. Robinson, Eric Wise of UC Irvine and Cal Poly’s Shawn Lewis.
Through 29 conference games, 11 have been decided by five points or less. The road team won two more times last week to bring the record in conference games to 13-16, led by Cal Poly’s 3-1 mark.
Honda Center New Home Of Tournament
Honda Center last November announced a five-year partnership with the Big West Conference to host its annual men’s and women’s post-season basketball tournament beginning in 2011. Each year the winner of the three-day single-elimination playoff receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Big West and Honda Center have teamed up for “March Madness” and “The Road To The Final Four” on numerous occasions including men’s basketball regionals in 1998, 2001 and 2003 and first and second round action in 2008. In addition, the Big West and Honda Center was selected as host of the 2011 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball West Regional.
The Big West Tournament is the oldest NCAA Division I post-season basketball tournament in the west, dating back to 1976 when the conference was known as the Pacific Coast Athletic Association.
All-session tickets for the 2011 Big West Tournament may be purchased at hondacenter.com. For more information, please call (714) 704-2500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Courtside (first 4 rows) all-session tickets cost $144 apiece. All other all-session tickets cost $64 apiece.
Thomason Looks For Career Win No. 400
Bob Thomason could earn his 400th career victory at Pacific as early as this week. Thomason owns a 398-283 record in his 23rd season in Stockton as his Tigers host Long Beach State and UC Riverside this week. He aims to join Jerry Tarkanian (Long Beach State and UNLV) as only the second coach in Big West history to amass 400 victories. Tarkanian is the all-time Big West overall wins leader with 405. Thomason owns the record for most conference victories with 224.
Resurgent UC Irvine Making Statement
After losing six of seven in a recent stretch, UC Irvine has rebounded to win three straight games and even its record at 10-10 overall and 3-3 in the Big West. The Anteaters have toppled the top two teams in the conference standings – Long Beach State and Cal Poly – during their modest win streak. They hope to extend the streak this week, hosting Cal State Northridge and traveling to UC Davis.
Miller Making An Impact
Eddie Miller reached double figures in scoring five times in his first 11 games as an Aggie this season, averaging 8.1 points in that span. He has drastically improved his production as a double-digit scorer in each of the last seven games, averaging 15.1 points per game during that stretch.
Johnson Streak Still Intact
UC Santa Barbara’s Orlando Johnson saw one streak broken but another extended in a game against Cal State Fullerton last week. His 17 points against the Titans snapped a four-game run in which he had accumulated over 20. However, it was also the 47th straight game he scored in double figures. The junior leads the Big West in scoring at 19.3 points per game.
Follow Your Team On BigWest.TV
The Big West Conference and the CBS College Sports Network are partnering to bring you exclusive coverage of Big West sports, press conferences, interviews, and features to your home via the Internet! Now in its sixth year, BigWest.TV covers every home and conference contest in men’s basketball as well as women’s basketball and volleyball. Also covered are select contests in men’s and women’s soccer, baseball, softball, and Big West Conference Championships. A monthly subscription of $9.95 or an annual subscription of $79.95 delivers exclusive coverage to you. If you can’t make it to the gym or the field, you can still catch all the action on BigWest.TV!