Full Slate Of Men's Hoops Conference Games On Tap This Week
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Men's Basketball Release No. 9
Big West men's basketball starts out 2012 on a busy note with three nights of action this week, highlighted by matchups between Cal Poly and three other title contenders in UC Santa Barbara, Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton. The defending champion 49ers open up at UC Irvine.
KEEP AN EYE ON
Greg Somogyi, UC Santa Barbara
Somogyi has been productive in limited minutes for UC Santa Barbara this season. The 7-3 center leads the Big West with 21 blocked shots and 2.1 blocks per game in spite of playing just a total of 114 minutes through 10 games. The senior blocked a season-high six shots in just 15 minutes on Nov. 26 against San Diego State. Somogyi is No. 2 on the Gaucho career blocked shots list with 158. He is a primary reason the Gauchos lead the Big West in blocks with 59 total, an average of 5.9 per game. Despite his limited time on the floor, Somogyi is also a presence on the rebounding end, pulling down four or more boards on seven occasions.
Two Games Provide Sneak Preview Of What’s In Store
Big West play began in abbreviated fashion last week with just two games on the ledger, but the outcomes likely alerted everyone that no conference game can be taken lightly.
Cal State Fullerton came in on a five-game winning streak and an 8-3 record with its Big West home opener against UC Davis, losers of eight straight games. The Titans still struggled to hold on for a one-point victory, 65-64, and were tied with the Aggies at 59-59 with just 2:15 to play. Kwame Vaughn’s two critical free throws with 4.8 seconds remaining allowed the Titans to salvage the victory.
Despite an 0-6 road record, UC Irvine trekked up north to hand Cal State Northridge a 71-62 defeat in another conference opening game. The Anteaters have now won two straight for the second time in 2011-12. Only UC Davis (0-7) and Pacific (0-6) remain winless on the road this season.
What’s Up Next
The league schedule ramps up in earnest this week with six teams playing as many as three games. Four games are on the ledger Monday, including the Big West opener for preseason favorite Long Beach State. The 49ers begin defense of their regular season title at UC Irvine, which coincidentally, was one of only two Big West teams to beat Long Beach State last season during conference action. UCI knocked off LBSU, 86-76, on Jan. 22, 2011 in the Bren Center.
The 49ers continue a busy week with their Big West home opener Thursday against Cal Poly. The Mustangs are ranked nationally in the top 15 in scoring defense. LBSU concludes the week with a Saturday evening tilt against Cal State Northridge.
Cal Poly appears to have the roughest start of anyone as its first three opponents out of the gate are the league’s top three contenders to win the title in addition to the Mustangs. They open the league slate at home versus Central Coast rival UC Santa Barbara, travel to Long Beach State and then return home Saturday for a matchup against the Big West’s most prolific offense in Cal State Fullerton. The Titans are averaging 80.2 points per game.
UC Riverside, which at 6-7 has produced the second-most victories prior to New Year in its Division I history, finds the schedule favorable at least according to records. The Highlanders initial three league opponents – Cal State Northridge, UC Davis and Pacific – are a combined 8-27 this season. UCR is accustomed to playing close games. Six of the Highlanders’ 13 contests have been decided by five points or less. After losing tight games to Youngstown State and Boston College early on, the Highlanders have defeated Washington State by one point, Montana State by two points, San Jose State by a bucket and, most recently, UTSA by a five-point margin.
Looking Back On Long Beach State’s Schedule
Long Beach State played the nation’s toughest non-conference schedule and fared well. The 49ers parlayed victories over No. 9 Pittsburgh and No. 14 Xavier into a 7-6 record, which included narrow losses at San Diego State (77-73 in overtime) and Montana (73-71). LBSU also gave No. 13 Kansas and No. 4 North Carolina all they could handle in eight and six point losses, respectively. The 49ers trailed the Jayhawks by just four late in the game on Dec. 6 at Allen Fieldhouse and led the Tar Heels at halftime as well as midway through the second half before eventually falling.
The combined record of Long Beach State’s nine road and neutral court opponents – through New Year’s Eve – was an incredible 94-24 (.797). San Diego State (12-2), Montana (9-5), Pittsburgh (11-3), Louisville (12-2), Kansas (9-3), North Carolina (12-2), Xavier (9-3), Auburn (9-3) and Kansas State (11-1) gave the 49ers ample preparation to defend their Big West regular season title.
Robinson On Doorstep Of Scoring, Rebounding Feat
Long Beach State senior T.J. Robinson is on the cusp of becoming just the fourth player in Big West history to amass 1,000 career points and rebounds. The 6-8 forward owns a career total of 989 rebounds, helped along by averaging 10.1 boards per game in each of the last two campaigns. With 1,466 career points in three-plus seasons as a 49er, Robinson is poised to join Cal State Fullerton’s Tony Neal, UNLV’s Stacey Augmon and Utah State’s Greg Grant as the only individuals in league history with membership in the millenium club for points and rebounds.
||Tony Neal, Cal State Fullerton
||Stacey Augmon, UNLV
||Greg Grant, Utah State
|| T.J. Robinson, Long Beach State
||Ron Cornelius, Pacific
Titans Aiming For Home Court Win No. 300
Cal State Fullerton takes a six-game winning streak, its longest since the 2007-08 squad reached the NCAA Tournament, into a Monday night battle at home against Pacific. The Titans would achieve their longest winning streak in 21 years with a successful outcome against the Tigers. The 1990-91 edition won eight straight. In addition, a win would be No. 300 in Titan Gym since the program moved to Division I in 1974-75.
Cal Poly Looking To Build On Solid Start
Cal Poly equalled its best start in 18 years as a Division I program with Thursday’s 67-61 win versus Hope International. The Mustangs improved to 9-4 and tied the 2001-02 squad for best start through 13 games. Cal Poly, winners of seven of its last nine games, opens Big West play against rival UC Santa Barbara, a team that has gone in the opposite direction following a encouraging 4-0 start. The Gauchos have lost three straight and five of their last six games since that start. However, UCSB can lean on recent history to boost its confidence going into this matchup. The Gauchos have won seven of the last eight matchups against the Mustangs, including last year’s showdown in Mott Gym in which James Nunnally drained a game-winning 10-foot jumper at the buzzer.
Johnson On Road To Another Scoring Title
UC Santa Barbara’s Orlando Johnson is well on his way to a third straight Big West scoring title, a feat that has never been accomplished in the conference’s 42 years of existence. The senior guard is averaging 21.1 points per game, almost four points more than second-leading scorer Stephan Hicks of Cal State Northridge. Johnson recently became just the eighth player in UCSB history to surpass 1,400 career points and now has 1,424.