First Place Co-Leaders Battle On Prime Ticket
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This Week in the Big West - February 3-9, 2014
Men's Basketball Release No. 14
Black and Blue men's basketball rivals Long Beach State at UC Irvine appear on Prime Ticket Thursday in a battle for first place in the tightly bunched Big West.
BIG WEST AT A GLANCE
• The Big West race features a three-way tie for first place between Long Beach State, UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara entering this week’s play. All three teams sport 5-2 conference records. UCI seeks its first conference sweep of LBSU since the 2007-08 season when the two teams joust at the Bren Events Center Thursday in a 7:30 pm game televised on PRIME TICKET. It’s a battle between two of the conference’s top defensive units – UCI is No. 2 in scoring defense at 62.3 points per game while LBSU is No. 3 at 63.9. In their first meeting Jan. 9 on opening night of Big West play, UCI eked out a 46-44 win at the Walter Pyramid to end LBSU’s 26-game home Big West win streak. The 90 points scored was the lowest combined total between two teams so far in conference play.
• The winner of the Long Beach State and UC Irvine matchup could very well have sole possession of first place depending on the outcome of UC Santa Barbara at Hawai‘i. The Gauchos, No. 11 this week in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major poll, have won 11 of their last 14 games since defeating Pac-12 foe California (72-65) on Dec. 6. The Rainbow Warriors also have been hot, with wins in 13 of their last 17 outings. UCSB junior Alan Williams, who has captured four Big West Player of the Week awards this season, has scored 20-plus points in four straight games and 14 overall. Williams is the only player in NCAA Division I to rank in the top 10 nationally in both scoring (No. 7 - 23.3 ppg) and rebounding (No. 7 - 11.1 rpg). Four UH starters average double figures in scoring, led by senior Christian Standhardinger – No. 3 in the Big West at 17.6 points per game. Sophomore Isaac Fotu ranks No. 7 nationally in field goal percentage (.622), and is shooting 68.5% (61 of 89) over his last eight games.
• UC Riverside hosts a pair of ESPN3 games this week, welcoming Cal State Fullerton Thursday and Long Beach State Saturday to the SRC Arena. Eleven of the 32 Big West games that have been played so far have been decided by five points or less, and UCR has competed in four of them. As a whole, the Highlanders have played 21 games, and 12 of those have been decided by five points or less.
Mustang Struggles: After owning a 16-game win streak at home in Big West contests, the Mustangs have now lost three straight at the Mott Athletics Center. Last week UC Davis and UC Irvine defeated the Mustangs, who have lost four of their last five going into a Thursday encounter at Hawai‘i.
Eversley Hits Milestone Mark: Senior Chris Eversley etched his name into the Mustang record books after scoring 31 points in two games last week. The 6-7 forward now has scored 1,022 points for his career, and is the 19th player in Cal Poly history to accomplish the feat.
SC Top 10: Eversley’s left-handed dunk on Big West leading shot blocker 7-6 Mamadou Ndiaye of UCI ended up as No. 1 on ESPN’s Sports Center “SC Top 10” highlight show.
Seeking Offense: Cal Poly is averaging 56.0 points over its last four games, and is No. 9 in the Big West in scoring offense (63.9 ppg). The Mustangs are 1-7 in games in which they score under 60 points.
CAL STATE FULLERTON
Toss It Out: The Titans are coming off one of their most difficult shooting nights of the season, connecting at 31.2% (20 of 64) from the field and 47.8% (11 of 23) at the foul line in Saturday’s 75-56 setback to Long Beach State. Cal State Fullerton has lost six of its last eight contests.
On The Other Hand: Senior Michael Williams remains CSF’s most consistent performer. The 6-2 guard posted his 20th straight game with double-digit points as he totalled a game-high 18 against the 49ers. Williams has notched 18 or more points in eight of his last 11 outings.
Harris Amps Up His Game: Junior Alex Harris also continues to contribute effectively for the Titans. His 16 points against LBSU marked the sixth straight game he scored in double figures.
Active On The Boards: An opportunistic group of Titans collectively pulled down 18 offensive rebounds in the LBSU game, the second-highest total for CSF this season.
CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE
Back In W Column: Cal State Northridge improved to 2-0 in overtime games, and snapped a four-game losing streak in the process, in last Thursday’s 93-89 triumph against UC Riverside. The 93 points represented CSUN’s second-highest scoring total this season.
Greene’s Free Throw Streak Ends At 29: Senior Josh Greene had his consecutive free throws made streak snapped at 29 during Saturday’s game at Hawai‘i. Greene was chasing the school record of 33 that he set last season. Over the last eight games, Greene has hit 46 of 48 (95.8%) from the foul line. Coincidentally, both misses have come against Hawai‘i.
Maxwell In Rare Company: Junior Stephen Maxwell notched his conference-leading 11th double-double with 24 points and 13 rebounds in CSUN’s win over UC Riverside. In that game, he became just the sixth player in school history to eclipse 600 career rebounds, as he finished the week with 608.
LONG BEACH STATE
Rolling: Long Beach State won its fourth straight game and sits in a three-way tie for first place in the Big West with UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara as the midpoint of league action arrives this week. The 49ers rank third in scoring defense (63.9 ppg) in Big West games.
No Coincidence: The 49ers are 8-3 since junior transfer Tyler Lamb became eligible to play. Lamb is averaging 15.5 points, scoring in double figures nine times and also bolstering the team’s defensive efforts.
Caffey Sniffs 1,000-Point Plateau: Junior guard Mike Caffey could become the program’s 23rd player to compile 1,000 career points as the 49ers tackle road games versus UC Irvine and UC Riverside. The 6-0 guard needs 38 points to achieve that mark. After scoring 20-plus points in four of his last five games, there’s a good chance he hits his goal.
Shooting Stars: The 49ers stepped up their shooting prowess in last week’s wins against Hawai‘i and Cal State Fullerton, hitting 57.7% (60 of 104) from the field.
Road Woes Be Gone: UC Davis broke an eight-game road losing streak with a hard fought 62-58 victory against Cal Poly last Thursday. The win was the Aggies’ first in San Luis Obispo since 2009.
On The Brink Of 300: Senior Ryan Sypkens drained four three-pointers against Cal Poly and five more versus UC Santa Barbara to raise his season total to conference-leading 74. Sypkens, who has hit at least five treys on six different occasions this season, bumped his career total to 294. He is on the cusp of becoming just the fourth player in Big West history to notch 300 career threes. In addition, the 6-4 guard moved into sole possession of fifth place in the Big West record book with 694 three-point attempts.
Three-Point Displays: The Aggies have knocked down double-digit three-pointers in five of their last eight contests. During that eight-game span, UC Davis is shooting 40.5% (79 of 195) from long range. The solid perimeter shooting recently has pushed the Aggies into the top three in the Big West in three-point percentage – they rank third at 36.2% (181 of 500) for the year.
Another Road Win: UC Irvine won for the seventh time in its last nine games, notching a 14-point road victory over Cal Poly to remain in a three-way tie for first place in the wild Big West. The Anteaters also picked up their third Big West road win to lead all members. UCI is 3-1 in conference road games.
Nelson Takes Reins: Freshman guard Luke Nelson led the Anteaters in scoring both games last week, including a career-high 26 points in a losing effort at UC Santa Barbara. He hit a career-best six threes against the Gauchos and added four more versus Cal Poly to push his team-leading total to 48.
Mamadou’s Block-A-Thon: Freshman 7-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye, the Big West’s leader in blocked shots (3.2 bpg), picked up three more swats in Saturday’s win over Cal Poly. That gave him 70 for the season, lifting him into a tie for eighth with UNLV’s Elmore Spencer (1991-92) for the most blocked shots in Big West single-season annals. Ndiaye is just 20 blocks away from the all-time single-season record.
Oh Man, Again?: UC Riverside might be the least favorite team that anyone wants to confront on the Big West schedule because it’s going to be a dogfight. Twelve of the 21 games the Highlanders have played this season have been decided by five points or less. Unfortunately, UCR is just 3-9 in those games but undefeated when it comes to scaring the living daylights out of opponents.
Rough Ending: Despite shooting 54.5% (30 of 55) and tying a season high for made three-pointers (9), the Highlanders could not hold on to a nine-point second half lead and fell 93-89 in overtime to Cal State Northridge last Thursday. It was the second OT loss for UCR in its last three games.
Fast Track Finley: Sam Finley has emerged as a potential candidate for Big West Freshman of the Year. The 6-2 guard is the Big West’s No. 7 scorer in league games at 17.3 points per game and tops among all freshmen. He scored in double figures for the 10th straight game, pouring in a career-high 27 points against CSUN. He set Big West single-game highs this year for free throws made (13) and attempted (16).
UC SANTA BARBARA
Big Game Ahead: UC Santa Barbara has only one game this week, but it’s a tough one as the Gauchos fly all the way to Hawai‘i, which is 11-3 at the Stan Sheriff Center this season. The Gauchos, in a three-way tie for first with Long Beach State and UC Irvine, lead UH by just one game in the Big West standings.
Al On The Rise: Junior Alan Williams continues to put up gaudy numbers, the most recent evidence a Big West single-game high 20 rebounds against UC Davis on Saturday. The 6-7 center added 27 points to that stat line to secure his fourth straight 20-plus game. Now at 695 career rebounds, Williams needs five more to cement his place in UCSB history as the sixth player to accumulate 1,000 points and 700 rebounds in a career.
Boswell Reaches 200 Treys: Senior Kyle Boswell became just the third player in UCSB history to record 200 threes in a career when he made his third one versus UC Davis. Over his last four contests, Boswell has made 11 of 23, 47.8%, from long range.
In The Hunt: Hawai‘i sits one game out of first place going into a key week of competition at home against UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly. The Gauchos are perched in a three-way tie for first place, while the Mustangs are in fifth, just a half-game back of UH. The Rainbow Warriors have won four of their last five games.
File That One Away: UH established a season-low for turnovers – six – in its 14-point victory against Cal State Northridge on Saturday. The ‘Bows also yanked down a season-high 22 offensive rebounds, which helped lead to 21 second chance points.
Fotu En Fuego: Sophomore Isaac Fotu reeled off his seventh and eighth straight games of scoring in double figures with 16 and 20 points against Long Beach State and CSUN, respectively. In his last eight games, the 6-8 forward is averaging 19.6 points and shooting 68.5% (61 of 89) from the field. Fotu is now ranked No. 7 nationally in field goal percentage (.622). He ranks No. 8 in the Big West in scoring at 15.2 points per game.