Formidable Roadtrip Awaits First Place UC Irvine
Men's Basketball Release No. 16
The battle for the Big West men's basketball championship intensifies as first place UC Irvine hits the road for games at Hawai‘i and Cal State Northridge, with Prime Ticket showing all of Saturday's action from the Matadome.
BIG WEST AT A GLANCE
• The Big West remains crowded at the top. UC Irvine (8-2) owns a one-game lead on second place UC Santa Barbara (7-3). Hawai‘i and Long Beach State are both one and a half games back with 7-4 conference records.
• A huge showdown awaits on the islands Thursday as Hawai‘i welcomes UC Irvine to the Stan Sheriff Center. The Rainbow Warriors look to sweep the Anteaters and improve their regular season title chances, while a UCI win creates separation from one of its closest pursuers. UCI’s challenging road trip continues Saturday at Cal State Northridge. Despite sitting in sixth place (5-7) in the Big West standings, the Matadors are capable of toppling anybody as their two wins over UH and UCSB can attest. Prime Ticket will air Saturday’s game from the Matadome at 7:30 pm (PST).
• Eighteen conference games – out of 48 total played – have been decided by five points or less. And of those 18 closely contested games, 12 have finished with a margin of three points or less.
• The UCI at CSUN game features two of the Big West’s top shot blockers – both in pursuit of school records. UCI’s 7-foot-6 freshman Mamadou Ndiaye leads the Big West with 84 blocks and is tied for No. 7 nationally with 3.36 blocks per game. He’s five swats shy of surpassing teammate Will Davis II for the school’s single-season top mark. Davis II established the current mark of 88 last year. Ndiaye is also viewing the Big West single-season record of 95 blocks set by Pacific’s Michael Olowokandi in 1997-98. On the CSUN side is 6-foot-7 sophomore Tre Hale-Edmerson. His 80 blocked shots already puts him third on the Matador career charts. Hale-Edmerson needs just three more rejections to surpass Thomas Shewmake (2003-07) and Lenny Daniel (2009-11) for No. 1 in Matador history.
Mustangs End Streak: Cal Poly halted a four-game losing streak with a seven-point victory at Cal State Northridge last Thursday. It was the third road victory in conference play for the Mustangs.
Odister Moves Up Threes List: Senior guard Kyle Odister connected for seven treys last week to bolster his career total to 165, and move him into sixth place on the Cal Poly career list. He needs four more to tie former teammate Dylan Royer (2008-13) for the No. 5 spot. Odister, who is tied for sixth in the Big West for most threes (51) this season, has hit three or more treys on nine different occasions.
Turnover Update: The Mustangs remain one of the nation’s stingiest teams in terms of committing the fewest turnovers. Cal Poly is ranked No. 6 in turnovers per game (9.4). They’ve had less than 10 miscues in six of the last seven, and eight of the last 10 games.
Eversley Excels: Senior Chris Eversley posted his third double-double with 17 points and 13 boards versus CSUN.
CAL STATE FULLERTON
More Close Calls: Five of Cal State Fullerton’s 10 Big West games have been decided by five points or less. The Titans found themselves in another nailbiter Saturday for Homecoming against Hawai‘i. Despite shooting 62% in the first half, the Titans fell 83-80 to UH. It was CSF’s third league loss by three or less points.
Harris On Fire: Junior Alex Harris continued his sizzling scoring surge with a career-high 29 points against Hawai‘i. It was the fourth straight game and fifth time in the last six that the 6-1 guard had scored 20 or more points. Over the last six games, Harris is averaging 22.7 points. He has notched double figure points in 10 straight contests.
Order It Up: The Titans are the lone team in Big West play without a road victory. After an 0-5 start in conference road contests, CSF seeks to reverse its fortunes this week with games at Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara. The Titans have lost seven straight road games overall, with their last success coming against non-conference foe Pepperdine on Dec. 4.
CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE
More Tales Of OT: It almost is becoming a requirement these days for Cal State Northridge. For the fourth time in the last six games, the Matadors were involved in an overtime contest. Their latest experience resulted in a win over then-first place UC Santa Barbara Saturday. CSUN is 3-1 in the overtime games.
Maxwell Time: Junior Stephen Maxwell loves overtime. His short runner in the lane with less than half a second to play in overtime gave the Matadors an 80-78 win over UCSB. On Jan. 30, he scored eight of CSUN’s 13 points in the extra stanza to help his team to a 93-89 win.. The forward scored another eight points in CSUN’s 92-83 OT victory versus Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 8.
Edmerson On Road To Blocks King: Sophomore Tre-Hale Edmerson has 50 blocks this season and 80 for his career, as he closes in on the school’s career record. Thomas Shewmake (2003-07) and Lenny Daniel (2009-11) are the co-leaders with 82. Edmerson’s 50 blocks is a CSUN single-season record.
LONG BEACH STATE
Good Sign: Long Beach State has shot 49 percent or better in each of its last four victories. The 49ers hit at a 53.8% (28 of 52) clip in Saturday’s win against Cal Poly. In their last four wins, the 49ers are shooting 51.7% (120 of 232).
Caffey Reaches 1,000: Junior guard Mike Caffey scored 18 points against Cal Poly Saturday, and surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career. He became the 23rd player in school history to do so. Caffey ended the game with 1,009 career points and moved him into 21st place on the school’s all-time scoring chart.
More On Caffey: Caffey also became just the seventh player in 49er history to amass 1,000 points and 300 assists. With 308 career helpers, he is just 10 away from 10th place in LBSU history.
Lamb Leads The Way: Junior Tyler Lamb tallied a team-high 19 points and a season-high five assists in the win over Cal Poly. He has scored in double figures in 12 of 15 games since joining the 49er roster on Dec. 19.
Return To Action: UC Davis hosts Long Beach State Thursday with a full week of rest since its last action. The Aggies picked up two of their conference victories at home earlier this season.
On The Brink Of History: Senior Ryan Sypkens is about to hit a milestone experienced by only three others in Big West history – the 300 three-pointer club. The 6-4 guard sits at 299 treys entering Thursday’s home contest against LBSU. He is set to join all-time Big West shotmaker Adam Jacobsen of Pacific (311, 1993-98), Cal Poly’s Mike Wozniak (308, 1996-00) and Cal State Fullerton’s Bobby Brown (307, 2003-07)
Hawkins Makes History: Junior Corey Hawkins became the second Aggie this season and 20th in program history to reach the 1,000-point career milestone, hitting the mark with a conventional three-play three seconds before halftime Thursday at Cal State Fullerton.
Scoring Leader: Hawkins has led the Aggies in scoring in seven of the last eight games.
All Alone At The Top: UC Irvine maintained its grip on sole possession of first place thanks a win over UC Riverside and a UC Santa Barbara loss to Cal State Northridge. The Anteaters face two tough road matchups this week in Hawai‘i and Cal State Northridge. UCI is tied for the most Big West road wins this season with four.
Setting The Record Straight: The Big West single-season blocked shots record is going to take some additional legwork to break than what was originally reported. Freshman 7-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye’s 84 blocks is 11 shy from tying Pacific’s Michael Olowokandi (1997-98) for the record. It was initially thought that UC Santa Barbara’s Eric McArthur owned the record with 89 blocks during the 1989-90 season.
Now That’s Efficient: Sophomore guard Dominique Dunning made the most of his 13 reserve minutes in Saturday’s win against UC Riverside. He totalled a career-high 20 points on 8 of 9 floor shooting. Dunning’s effort highlighted an outstanding performance by the Anteater bench, which outscored the Highlander reserves, 42-19.
Big Week Ahead: With the regular season coming down the home stretch, UC Riverside faces two important road matchups this week against UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly. The Highlanders (3-8) trail Cal State Fullerton and UC Davis by one-half game for the final Big West Tournament slot.
Don’t Go In There: Sophomore Taylor Johns swatted six shots against Hawai‘i and added four more blocks versus UC Irvine for a total of 57, the fourth-best single-season total in Highlander history and second-most in the school’s Division I history. Johns has recorded at least one block in 13 straight games.
In Reverse: After three straight games of shooting 50 percent or better, the Highlanders were held to a season-low 28.6% (16 of 56) performance by UCI on Saturday.
Patton On The Back: Senior Chris Patton collected his fourth 20-point performance when he scored 21 against Hawai‘i on 8 of 13 field goal shooting.
UC SANTA BARBARA
Back At It: The Gauchos dropped out of first place after losing to Cal State Northridge Saturday in overtime. UCSB’s four-game winning streak fell by the wayside in the process.
That’s The Benchmark: UCSB is 16-0 this season when holding its opponent to 70 points or less. Owning a 4-0 record against fellow upper conference echelon teams this year – Long Beach State, UC Irvine and Hawai‘i – UCSB has amped up its defensive effort, holding those foes to an average of 59.8 points in those wins.
Adding To The Arsenal: Junior Zalmico Harmon expanded upon his previous career scoring high in a big way, dropping 21 points on CSUN on 8 of 12 shooting. It was just the seventh double-digit scoring effort this season for the pass first point guard. And pass he does well. Over the last seven games, Harmon has dished out 36 assists against just three turnovers.
Among The Best: Harmon ranks third nationally with a 4.07 assist-to-turnover ratio through games of Feb. 16.
Road Warriors: Hawai‘i knocked off UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton on the mainland last week to wrap up its third and fourth consecutive conference road wins. That’s a feat that no other Rainbow Warrior squad had accomplished in nearly 35 years of play as members of the Western Athletic Conference or Big West.
There’s Enough For Everyone: For the third time this season – all in Big West play – all five Rainbow Warrior starters scored in double figures. The latest occurrence came in Saturday’s 83-80 win at CSF, as Isaac Fotu led the way with 24 points. UH has won all three games in which the entire starting lineup hits double digits.
Love That Line: UH canned a season-best 92.3% (24 of 26) at the free throw line against CSF, including a 10-for-10 showing by Fotu. UH made 15 straight freebies at one point in the second half to secure the win.
Nearing Number 20: UH is two wins away from notching its first 20-win season since going 21-12 in 2003-04.