First Place Showdown Awaits UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara
Men's Basketball Release No. 17
Key Big West games are scattered throughout this week's men's basketball schedule, highlighted by a showdown between 9-3 equals UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine. The winner takes over sole possession of first place.
BIG WEST AT A GLANCE
• A highly anticipated matchup between two teams tied for first place in the Big West highlights the week’s action. UC Santa Barbara travels to UC Irvine, both 9-3 in league action, with the winner taking over sole possession of first place. The game will be aired on ESPN3. UCSB is seeking the season sweep after winning the first meeting, 80-60, on Jan. 30. With a win, the Gauchos would have the head-to-head edge in any tiebreaker seeding scenarios for next month’s Big West Tournament at Honda Center.
• Several other games will be available on various networks this week. Prime Ticket will broadcast the Hawai‘i at Long Beach State game on Thursday. On Saturday, UC Santa Barbara at UC Davis (ESPN2), Long Beach State at Cal State Fullerton (ESPN3) and Cal Poly at UC Irvine (ESPNU) will be aired.
• Long Beach State’s bid for a fourth consecutive regular season championship is still alive. The 49ers (8-4) trail UCI and UCSB by one game, but do not play either team the remainder of the Big West schedule. LBSU needs wins against Hawai‘i and Cal State Fullerton this week to give itself the best chance to remain in the hunt.
• Hawai‘i forward Christian Standhardinger is set to become the 10th Big West player this season to climb over the 1,000-point career plateau. The forward stands at 982 points entering this week’s games.
• UC Santa Barbara center Alan Williams leads the nation in rebounds per game (12.0).
• UC Irvine 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye needs three blocks to surpass teammate Will Davis II for the single-season school record. Davis set the record one season ago with 88 blocked shots.
Got A Close One: Cal Poly entered Saturday’s game against UC Riverside with a 1-5 mark in games decided by five points or less. The Mustangs reversed their fortunes with a 69-64 win against the Highlanders, aided by 53.3% (8 of 15) shooting from three.
Turnover Update: The Mustangs remained No. 6 nationally in fewest turnovers per game (9.3). They have recorded six straight games with nine or fewer miscues, and have committed single-digit turnovers 15 times in 26 games this season.
Johnson Eyes Assist Chart: Senior Jamal Johnson is getting close to becoming the sixth player in Mustang history with 300 career assists. The 6-0 guard sits No. 7 all-time Cal Poly with 278 assists, and needs nine more to unseat Shanta Cotright (1993-97) from the No. 6 position.
On The Tube: The Mustangs appear on ESPNU Saturday when they travel to UC Irvine for a showdown against the Big West co-leaders.
CAL STATE FULLERTON
Skid Stopped: Cal State Fullerton extinguished a seven-game road losing streak thanks to last Thursday’s 67-59 result at Cal Poly. The win was key as the Titans are now positioned for the No. 7 seed in next month’s Big West Tournament.
Williams Continues To Sizzle: Senior Michael Williams has scored in double figures in all 26 games this season. More than that, he has developed a penchant for the 20-point game. Williams has tallied 20 or more points in five of the last six games, and eight times in the last 13. He notched a career-high 29 points against UC Santa Barbara Saturday.
Threes Tandem: Williams and fellow guard Alex Harris have accounted for 103 of the team’s 156 three-pointers. The 59 treys that belong to Williams rank as the fifth-most in the Big West.
Big Games Ahead: CSF hosts Cal State Northridge and Long Beach State this week with at least one win moving the team closer to a Big West Tournament berth.
CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE
Here They Come: Watch out Big West. Cal State Northridge has won three of its last four league games, and two of those wins came against the conference’s co-leaders UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine.
Incredible Comeback: The Matadors trailed UCI by 16 points with 9:26 remaining, but outscored the Anteaters 29-7 the rest of the way to cement a hard fought comeback victory Saturday. CSUN helped its cause by making 16 of 18 free throw attempts over the final 7:17.
Crown Him: Sophomore Tre-Hale Edmerson, CSUN’s single-season record holder with 52 blocks, is one swat away from owning the school’s career record. He is currently tied with Thomas Shewmake (2003-07) and Lenny Daniel (2009-11) for the record at 82.
Automatic: Senior Josh Greene made all 11 free throw attempts against UCI to improve his season percentage to 91.8% (134 of 146). The mark currently ranks No. 2 all-time in the Big West single-season record book.
LONG BEACH STATE
Big Game On Tap: Long Beach State’s hold on three straight Big West Tournament No. 1 seeds could lose some grip unless the 49ers come up with wins at home against Hawai‘i (Prime Ticket) and on the road versus Cal State Fullerton (ESPN3). LBSU is just one game behind first place co-leaders UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara, but has a combined 0-4 record against them.
Big Shots: The 49ers posted a season-best 55.6% (10 of 18) mark from three-point territory in Saturday’s 79-57 victory at UC Davis. LBSU is 3-0 this season when connecting for 10 or more threes.
Caffey On Cusp Of Top 10: Junior Mike Caffey needs five more assists to replace Rick Aberegg (1972-74) for 10th place on the school’s career assists list. Caffey enters the week with 314 assists.
Board Member: Dan Jennings, the Big West No. 4 rebounder at 8.1 per game, has corraled eight or more rebounds in eight of the last nine games. The senior is averaging 9.4 rebounds over that span.
Back On The Deuce: UC Davis drew a sellout crowd of 5,670 for its first ESPN2 appearance against Long Beach State last season. The Aggies get a repeat exposure on the “Deuce” this Saturday when they host UC Santa Barbara.
Sypkens Hits 300: Senior Ryan Sypkens became the fourth player in the 45-year history of the Big West to reach 300 career three-pointers when he knocked down his first attempt against LBSU on Saturday. The 6-4 guard now has 303 threes, and needs just nine more to eclipse Adam Jacobsen of Pacific (311, 1993-98) for the conference record.
Island Fever: Junior Corey Hawkins loves to play on the islands. Last year, the guard dropped a career-high 40 points and hit eight treys against Hawai‘i. On Saturday, Hawkins didn’t quite reach that level, but still had 29 points while making 4 of 5 from long range.
Come To Expect It: Hawkins has eclipsed the 20-point threshold in six of his last 12 outings, and he ranks second in the Big West with 18.9 points per game.
Showdown Awaits: UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara meet Thursday on ESPN3 in a showdown for the outright lead in the Big West. Both teams are tied at 9-3. The Anteaters look to avenge a 20-point loss at UCSB on Jan. 30. UCI also hosts Cal Poly Saturday in a game that will be televised on ESPNU.
The Benchmarks: UCI is 12-0 when holding the opposition to less than 60 points this season. Along the same lines, the ‘Eaters are 17-0 when opponents shoot under 40 percent from the field.
The Defense Doesn’t Rest: The Anteaters rank No. 6 in the country in field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to average just 38.0% shooting. They also stand at No. 10 in blocked shots (6.3 bpg).
Moving Up The Board: Sophomore Alex Young handed out eight assists on Saturday at Cal State Northridge to move into 12th place on UCI’s career list with 278. He is 13 helpers away from entering the top 10.
Heartbreak City: More than half of UC Riverside’s 27 games this season have been decided by five points or less. Fifteen, to be exact. The Highlanders have struggled in those games to the tune of a 4-11 record. They nearly upset league leader UC Santa Barbara last week, falling by one point.
Blocks Update: Sophomore Taylor Johns registered five blocks in each of last week’s games against UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly. He has been on an absolute blocked shots tear of late, accumulating 20 in the last four games. With 67 blocks this season, Johns is No. 2 in the Big West and trails only 7-foot-6 UC Irvine center Mamadou Ndiaye for the lead.
On Pace: Johns needs seven blocks to become the fourth player in UCR history to collect 100 for his career.
Gearing Up: The Highlanders sit one-half game out of the final Big West Tournament spot, and ready for a crucial game Saturday against Cal State Northridge.
UC SANTA BARBARA
Going For 20: UC Santa Barbara could reach the 20-win mark for the fifth time during the head coaching tenure of Bob Williams, needing road victories against UC Irvine and UC Davis to do so.
That’s The Benchmark: UCSB is 18-0 this season when holding its opponent to 70 points or less.
Big Al: Junior Alan Williams averaged 16.5 rebounds in two games last week, enabling him to take over the national lead in the category. The 6-7 center is No. 1 in the NCAA with 12.0 rebounds per game. He has corraled double-digit rebounds in 13 games this season, including six of the last seven.
Floor General: Junior point guard Zalmico Harmon produced his Big West-leading third game with 10 assists in Saturday’s win against Cal State Fullerton. Harmon, who ranks second in the Big West in assists (5.2 apg), also has stepped up his scoring recently. He notched his second 20-point performance in the last three games, finishing with exactly 20 on 5 of 10 shooting against the Titans.
Seed Implications: Hawai‘i travels to Long Beach State for its only game this week, but it’s an important one as the Rainbow Warriors trail the 49ers by just one-half game for the third seed at next month’s Big West Tournament. UH looks to avenge a nine-point loss at home to LBSU last month.
Standhardinger On Cusp Of 1,000: Senior Christian Standhardinger seeks to become the 10th Big West player this season to grasp the career 1,000 point milestone. The forward enters the week with 982 points, looking to join the 15 others at UH who have accomplished the feat.
Baskets, Baskets, Baskets: UH shot 50 percent or better for the third time in the last four games with Saturday’s 57.1% (32 of 56) effort in a win at UC Davis. The Rainbow Warriors are 9-0 this year when shooting at least 50 percent.
Fotu Doubles Up: Sophomore Isaac Fotu is No. 10 nationally in field goal percentage at 60.3% (164 of 272). He has shot below 50% in a game just seven times this season.