First Place UC Irvine Aims To Ward Off Challengers
Men's Basketball Release No. 13
UC Irvine heads up to the Central Coast this week looking to maintain its grip on first place, but needs a successful foray to avoid falling back into a pack of five schools that trail the leaders by no more than two games.
BIG WEST AT A GLANCE
Showdown Looms: Cal Poly hosts UC Irvine this week in a battle of the top two teams in the Big West standings. The Mustangs enter the week trailing the Anteaters by a half-game for first place. ESPNU will televise Saturday’s showdown at 8:00 p.m. Cal Poly starts the week on Thursday against last place UC Davis.
No Turnover Troubles: The Mustangs continue to rank among the nation’s leaders in fewest turnovers per game. They are now No. 7 nationally (9.5) after tying their season-low with three miscues against UC Riverside on Saturday. Two nights earlier, Cal Poly had just nine turnovers versus Cal State Fullerton. The Mustangs have posted nine games with single-digit turnovers this season.
Nine Points Away For Eversley: Senior Chris Eversley inched to within nine points of becoming the 19th player in Mustang history to reach 1,000 for a career. After tying his season low with seven points against CSF, the 6-7 forward rebounded with 13 versus UCR. It was Eversley’s 12 game with double figure points this season.
CAL STATE FULLERTON
Big Win: The Titans played back-to-back nip-and-tuck contests last week with mixed results. After a 58-56 loss to Cal Poly, they snapped a three-game skid with a huge 74-72 triumph over UC Santa Barbara. Cal State Fullerton is 2-3 this season in games decided by five points or less.
Barometer For Success: Cal State Fullerton shot exactly 50 (27 of 54) percent in the win over UCSB. The Titans are 5-0 this season when shooting 50 percent or better.
Harris Ties Career High: Junior Alex Harris matched his career high of 22 points in the win over UCSB. He knocked down a season-best four three-pointers. The guard also has scored in double-digits for five consecutive games.
Threes Galore: CSF has struggled from three-point range this season, hitting at a 30.0 (104 of 347) percent clip. But the Titans found their rhythm against the Gauchos, tying a season best with nine three-pointers (in 20 attempts), and hit above a 40% clip for the first time in 13 games.
CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE
Slip And Slide: Cal State Northridge seeks to halt a four-game losing streak when it hosts UC Riverside Thursday on ESPN3. The Matadors won their initial two ESPN3 appearances to start out 2-0 in Big West play, but have since dropped four straight.
Maxwell Joins 1,000-Point Triumvirate: Junior Stephen Maxwell became the third Matador to surpass 1,000 career points this season after scoring a combined 35 points versus UC Irvine and Long Beach State. Maxwell hit 1,000 with a dunk at the 13:55 mark of the first half against the 49ers. Teammates Josh Greene (1,300) and Stephan Hicks (1,190) also have hit the milestone this year.
Bulk Of The Load: Greene, Maxwell and Hicks have combined for 1,012 of the team’s 1,546 points scored, or 65.5 percent of the total offense.
No Diverting: The Matadors have trotted out the same starting five - Greene, Maxwell, Hicks, Tre Hale-Edmerson and Landon Drew - in all but one game.
LONG BEACH STATE
Another Win: Long Beach State won for the third time in its last four games thanks to a 76-62 triumph over Cal State Northridge Saturday. The 49ers now focus their attention on Thursday’s huge road game at Hawai‘i and a Saturday home date with rival Cal State Fullerton on ESPN3.
Mr. Jennings Heats Up: Senior Dan Jennings has accumulated back-to-back double doubles after his 14-point, 10-rebound effort against CSUN. The 6-9 forward also has made 11 of his last 14 floor shots over that span.
Caffey Climbs The Leaderboard: Junior guard Mike Caffey tallied his seventh 20-point game of the season with a game-high 23-point performance versus the Matadors. Caffey now ranks fifth in the Big West in scoring with 16.5 points per game.
Solid With The Ball: The 49ers consistently take good care of the ball as evidenced that they have played 10 straight games with no more than 11 turnovers. In that span, LBSU is averaging just 9.7 turnovers per game.
Conquer The Blues: UC Davis looks for its first road win of the season (0-8) with a trip to the Central Coast and matchups against Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara. The Aggies have won on the road before in conference games. In 2012-13, UC Davis tied Long Beach State for the most road league wins with five.
Don’t Ignore Iggy: Junior Iggy Nujic collected a career-high 17 points in 19 minutes off the bench against Hawai‘i on Thursday. The 6-8 forward made six of nine shots from the field, including two of four from three-point range. Nujic has scored in double figures in eight of his last 13 outings after producing single digits in his first seven games.
No Drop Off For Hawkins: Junior Corey Hawkins notched 20 points in a game for the sixth time, and third in the last five games, with 21 points against Hawai‘i. He totalled a season-high four three-pointers (in six attempts). Hawkins has raised his scoring average to 18.2 points per game, which is tied with UH’s Christian Standhardinger for No. 2 in the Big West.
Streak Ends At Six: UC Irvine extended its winning streak to six straight before Hawai‘i dealt a 90-86 overtime loss on Saturday. It also marked UCI’s first conference loss after a 4-0 start. UCI remains in first place entering this week, owning a half-game lead over closest pursuer Cal Poly.
Mama-DO: Freshman 7-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye has made his last 25 consecutive field goals, and is one shy of tying the all-time NCAA record held by Bowling Green’s Torian Oglesby (2011-12). Ndiaye has played in six straight games without missing a shot. In fact, the last time he missed a shot was on Dec. 28, 2013 at Arizona State.
Ndiaye On Record Pace: Ndiaye, who has hit 80.0% (76 of 95) of his field goals, would be the Big West single-season record holder if the season ended today. Long Beach State’s Mike Atkinson set the record in 1993-94 when he shot 69.5% (141 of 203) from the field.
Dishing McNealy: Senior Chris McNealy has handed out 21 assists against three turnovers over the last six games.
More Close Calls: The Highlanders played two more nailbiter games last week, following up an agonizing three-point overtime loss to UC Santa Barbara with a scintillating three-point win over Cal Poly. Eleven of UCR’s 20 games this season have been decided by five points or less.
Keeping Up With The Joneses: Sophomore Steven Jones picked a great time for two season-best statistical numbers as he had 11 points and a career-high 10 rebounds for his first career double-double.
Freebies Are Their Friend: The Highlanders certainly can look to solid free throw shooting as a primary reason for Saturday’s 61-58 victory against the Mustangs. UCR made 22 of its 25 free throw attempts, 88.0%, which marked the team’s second-best single-game showing this season.
Patton Leads: Senior Chris Patton led the Highlanders in scoring twice last week with 23 and 17 points against UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly, respectively. He was particularly effective versus UCSB, hitting 10 of 13 shots.
UC SANTA BARBARA
Back Home: The Gauchos have won nine of their last 12 contests going into this week’s home battles with UC Irvine and UC Davis. UC Santa Barbara plays five of its next seven games at the Thunderdome, where it owns a 5-2 record this season.
Al Among The Nation’s Best: Junior Alan Williams is the only player in Division I to rank nationally in the top 10 in both scoring and rebounding. The 6-7 center is No. 7 in scoring (22.9 ppg) and No. 10 in rebounding (10.6 rpg).
Boswell Nears 200 Treys: Senior Kyle Boswell, who has hit at least one three-pointer in 28 straight games dating to last season, made six treys last week to slip past Alex Harris for the No. 4 spot on the UCSB career list with 195. Boswell now eyes Carrick DeHart (1986-90) for the No. 3 spot at 196. With five more long bombs, Boswell would be just the third player in Gaucho history with 200 career threes.
Harmon-y: Junior guard Zalmico Harmon had 10 assists and no turnovers against Cal State Fullerton on Saturday.
‘Bows Heating Up: Hawai‘i registered a Big West road sweep of UC Davis and UC Irvine last week, and have won seven of its last nine games. The Rainbow Warriors now play their next four games at home. UH is a Big West best 10-2 at the Stan Sheriff Center this season.
Offensive Firepower: The Rainbow Warriors have scored 90 or more points in three straight games – all wins. UH is 6-0 this season when scoring at least 90 points. The team ranks No. 16 in the country in scoring at 82.7 points per game.
Fotu Unstoppable: Sophomore Isaac Fotu was outstanding in UH’s two road wins as he averaged 25.0 points and shot 71.4% (20 of 28). Fotu dominated against the Anteaters, scoring a career-high 30 points on 13-of-16 shooting. In addition, Fotu extended his consecutive free throws made streak to 22 after going 4-for-4 at the line.
Wild Stat: UH’s starting five accounted for 177 of the team’s 180 points in the two wins last week.