UC Davis, UC Riverside Battle For Final Men's Tournament Berth
Men's Basketball Release No. 18
The last available bid to the eight-team Big West Men's Basketball Tournament – March 13-15 at Honda Center – will be handed out to either UC Davis or UC Riverside. The Highlanders can clinch the coveted tournament berth with a victory over the Aggies Thursday on ESPN3. First place UC Irvine also hosts UC Davis on Prime Ticket Saturday.
BIG WEST AT A GLANCE
• The final week of Big West regular season play is here, as teams jockey for seeding position at next week’s conference tournament (March 13-15) at Honda Center. The No. 1 seed and regular season championship is also up for grabs. UC Irvine controls its own destiny on both fronts. The Anteaters (20-10, 11-3), winners of 20 games for two straight seasons, clinch the top seed and their first outright league title since 2000-01 with wins against Cal State Fullerton and UC Davis.
• UC Santa Barbara (19-8, 10-4) seeks its first Big West title since sharing those honors with Pacific in 2009-10. The Gauchos could earn their first outright crown since the 2002-03 season with two wins and two UCI losses. UCSB, which hosts Hawai‘i and travels to Cal Poly, needs one win to secure 20 wins for the third time in five years. UCSB’s +8 improvement in the win column from 2012-13 is the best among Big West schools.
• A flurry of televised games dot the schedule as the regular season wraps up. ESPNU will carry the Hawai‘i at UC Santa Barbara game Thursday. Also on Thursday, UC Riverside can secure a berth in the Big West Tournament with a win against UC Davis in front of the ESPN3 cameras. UC Irvine hosts UC Davis Saturday on Prime Ticket, while Long Beach State and UCR appear on ESPN3.
• UC Irvine 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye set the school’s single-season blocked shots record, finishing the week with 90 and eclipsing the old mark of 88 set by teammate Will Davis II last year. Now No. 2 on the Big West single-season chart, Ndiaye is five swats away from tying Pacific’s Michael Olowokandi (1997-98) for the record.
• Of the last 32 conference games, 13 have been decided by five points or less. Ten of those games have been decided by one possession.
Momentum Builder: Cal Poly has lost eight of its last 10 games heading into the final regular season matchup against Central Coast rival UC Santa Barbara. Despite the recent struggles, the Mustangs have an opportunity to sweep the season series from the Gauchos for the first time since 2006-07.
Nwaba With Big Game: Sophomore Dave Nwaba posted his third 20-point game of the season in the loss at UC Irvine. He added a career-high 13 rebounds to secure his first double-double.
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 is tied for sixth all-time at Cal Poly with 286 assists.
Eversley Moves Up: Senior Chris Eversley is now No. 15 all-time in school history with 1,117 points. He is 22 rebounds away from becoming the ninth player to amass 600 in a career.
CAL STATE FULLERTON
Titans Punch Ticket: Cal State Fullerton’s two home wins against Cal State Northridge and Long Beach State last week clinched a berth in next week’s Big West Tournament. The Titans have won four of their last six games.
Quite The Roll: Senior Michael Williams has notched 20 or more points in seven of his last eight outings. In the last eight games, the 6-2 guard is averaging 22.4 points. Williams, who has scored in double figures in all 28 games, had 28 points on 12 of 18 shooting against LBSU on Saturday.
Recipe For Success: The Titans shot a combined 54.6% (59 of 108) in the two wins last week, improving to 7-0 on the season when they shoot 50 percent or better. CSF has scored at least 74 points in those seven wins.
Harris Doing His Part: Junior Alex Harris has scored in double figures in 14 straight games, and he has six 20-point efforts during that stretch. Harris made 18 trips to the free throw line against LBSU en route to a 22-point performance.
CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE
Nailbiters: Cal State Northridge has played six games this season decided by one point. The Matadors are 3-3 in such games, but came out on the wrong end twice last week against Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside. The 106-105 double overtime loss to the Highlanders marked just the second time in school history that CSUN had lost consecutive one-point games.
Double-Doubler: Junior Stephen Maxwell notched his 13th and 14th double-doubles of the season, and his two 25-point games against CSF and UCR gave him 20 or more in six of the last eight games. Maxwell’s 561 points rank fifth at CSUN for a single-season, and he is 11 away from fourth.
Records Fall: Senior Josh Greene broke two school records at UCR – he set the career mark for games played (121) and the single-season record for minutes played (1,101).
Greene Machine: Greene is on pace to become the school’s record holder and No. 2 in Big West history in free throw percentage (.916), hitting 141 of 154 for the season.
LONG BEACH STATE
Streak Broken: Long Beach State’s streak of three straight outright Big West titles will end as the team can finish no better than 11-5, while UC Irvine can finish no worse than the same. Still, the 49ers have won eight of their last 11 games, and three of their conference losses have been by three points or less.
Hammonds The Hero: Freshman Travis Hammonds knocked down the game-winning three-pointer with nine seconds remaining to give LBSU the exciting 63-61 victory over Hawai‘i on Thursday.
Caffey Moves Into Top 10: Junior Mike Caffey joined the 49er career top 10 in assists as he finished with 321 last week, just five away from leapfrogging into ninth. Caffey ranks fourth in the Big West with 4.2 assists per game.
Jennings Keeps Boarding: Senior Dan Jennings notched his sixth and seventh double-doubles of the year last week. The 6-9 forward is averaging 9.6 rebounds over his last 11 games. Jennings has had no fewer than eight rebounds in a game just once in that 11-game span.
For The Marbles, Kinda: Big West Tournament aspirations are on the line for UC Davis in a crucial encounter at UC Riverside on Thursday. A loss would give the season sweep to the Highlanders and the coveted tournament berth, putting the Aggies on the outside looking in. The Aggies do not guarantee themselves a bid with a victory, but they stay in contention.
Sypkens On Brink Of Record: Senior Ryan Sypkens drained seven threes last week to increased his career total to 310, putting him one shy of tying and two of breaking the Big West record of 311 held by Pacific’s Adam Jacobsen (1993-98). Sypkens leads all conference players with 90 treys and is fourth in three-point field goal percentage (.407).
Career Night For Georgi: Freshman Georgi Funtarov set career-bests for points (17), rebounds (10) and three-pointers made (4) in the Aggies’ 85-73 win over Cal Poly last Thursday. Funtarov was a perfect 4-for-4 from the three-point line as he helped the Aggies break a four-game losing streak.
Twenty Wins Again: UC Irvine reached the 20-win mark for the second straight season after defeating UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly last week. It represents the first back-to-back 20-win campaigns for the program since posting three straight from 2000-03. The 20 wins are tied for the fifth-most in school history.
Title In Sight: UCI can clinch its first outright Big West title since the 2000-01 season with two wins, one win coupled with a UC Santa Barbara loss, or two UCSB losses and an LBSU loss. The Anteaters last shared a conference championship in 2001-02.
McNealy Hits Mark: Senior Chris McNealy became the 17th player in UCI history last week to compile 1,000 points and 500 rebounds in a career. He needs one more steal to secure his place as the third UCI player with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 100 steals.
Mamadou Breaks Record: Freshman Mamadou Ndiaye’s 90 blocks is a UC Irvine single-season record.
One More To Go: UC Riverside is positioned to wrap the eighth and final Big West Tournament seed, needing a win over UC Davis Thursday to do so.
A Different Outcome: Perseverance enabled the Highlanders to eke out a close victory Saturday after being on the wrong end of so many others. With a 4-11 record in games decided by five points or less, UCR squeezed past Cal State Northridge, 106-105, in double overtime for its most meaningful win of the season.
Huge Outing For Patton: Senior Chris Patton had a game-high and season-high 30 points in the win over CSUN. He added 11 rebounds for his double-double of the season. Patton made 13 of 19 shots in a season-high tying 36 minutes as the Highlanders halted a five-game losing streak.
Line Dance: UCR set season-highs for free throws made (34) and attempted (39) in the win against CSUN. The 34 makes are tied for the 10th most in school history and tied for the most in the Division I history of the program. UCR is third among league teams in free throw percentage (.732).
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 a win at home against Hawai‘i or a road victory at Cal Poly.
Still In Contention: The Gauchos trail league-leading UC Irvine by a game entering the final week of the regular season. UCSB still could finish with the program’s first co-championship since the 2007-08 season, and has an outside shot for its first outright title since 2002-03, but needs UCI to falter.
Big-Time Bryson: On a night when UCSB’s leading scorer and rebounder Al Williams fouled out in just 16 minutes, sophomore guard Michael Bryson stepped up with 19 points and seven rebounds in a 67-54 win at UC Davis. The Sacramento native, playing in front of hometown friends and family, scored in double figures for the seventh time in the last eight games.
Floor General: Junior Zalmico Harmon has 56 assists and only five turnovers over the last 11 games.
One Away From 20: Hawai‘i is seeking its first 20-win season since 2003-04, and needs to beat either UC Santa Barbara on the road or Cal State Fullerton at home this week to achieve the feat.
Standhardinger Reaches 1,000: Senior Christian Standhardinger became the 10th Big West player to accumulate 1,000 career points this season. Standhardinger scored 17 points at Long Beach State Saturday, and surpassed the mark when he hit a jump shot with 4:16 remaining in the game. He is the 16th player in UH history to hit the mark.
Three-Point Leader: Junior Garrett Nevels leads the Big West in three-point field goal percentage, hitting on 43.4% (56 of 129) from long range. He has made the sixth-most threes (56), and has made at least one trey in 24 of 28 games this season.
Protector: Junior Keith Shamburger tops the conference in assists (5.5 apg), and he has had an outstanding run over the last 12 contests, producing 78 assists against just 17 turnovers.