ESPN3 will feature a pair of Big West men's basketball showdowns involving the three schools currently tied for first place this week, with UC Davis traveling to UC Irvine on Thursday, and the Anteaters visiting Long Beach State on Saturday.
BIG WEST AT A GLANCE
Back To Mott: After dropping a pair of road encounters against UC Irvine and UC Davis last week, Cal Poly returns to the Mott Athletics Center for its longest homestand of the year – three straight – beginning with Hawai‘i on Thursday.
Offense Rediscovered: Despite the 81-78 overtime loss to UC Davis, the Mustangs came away with several positives from an offensive standpoint – the point total tied their highest mark of the season, the overall field goal percentage (.492) was their second highest and their first half field goal percentage (.593) established a season-best.
Bennett Time: Junior forward Brian Bennett scored a career-high 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting against UC Davis. It was the highest point total by a Mustang since Chris Eversley had 30 against CSUN on Jan. 26, 2013.
Turnover Talk: Cal Poly has committed less than 10 turnovers in seven consecutive games, and ranks No. 2 nationally with just 8.5 per game.
CAL STATE FULLERTON
Streak Buster: Cal State Fullerton’s league record dipped to 0-6 following a tough overtime loss to Long Beach State last week. The last Titan team to open 0-6 in conference play was the 2001-02 squad. The last Titan team to start conference play was 0-7 was the 1987-88 edition.
Pointing To The Positives: Cal State Fullerton has been in contention for a victory in all six Big West games, and Saturday’s tilt against LBSU was no different. The Titans led by as many as 11 points (71-60) with 4:14 to go in regulation, but were outscored 15-4 down the stretch to force overtime. CSF also hit a season-high 11 three-pointers in the game.
Harris Rights The Ship: After scoring a combined 12 points on 4-of-22 shooting the previous week versus Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara, senior Alex Harris erupted for 28 points and connected on 10-of-19 from the field against LBSU. It was his eighth 20-point performance of the season.
Dozen: Senior Steve McClellan has yanked down exactly 12 rebounds in three straight contests.
Key Game: CSUN seeks to halt a four-game losing streak in a road battle against Cal State Fullerton on Thursday. A win would give the Matadors additional separation over the Titans for the eighth and final spot in next month’s Big West Tournament in Anaheim.
Hicks Breaks Record: Senior Stephan Hicks became the Big West’s career free throws made leader with 553 after making five last week. He eclipsed Long Beach State’s Lucious Harris (549, 1989-93) for the top spot. Hicks is second to Harris in career free throws attempted, needing 67 more to break the record of 755.
Maxwell With Career Night: Senior Stephan Maxwell posted his ninth double-double of the season with 28 points and a career-high 17 rebounds against Hawai‘i on Thursday. He finished the week with 894 career rebounds, which puts him at No. 9 in Big West history.
On The Horizon: Maxwell is six rebounds shy of becoming just the ninth player in Big West history to accumulate 900 for his career.
LONG BEACH STATE
Five And Rolling: Long Beach State extended its winning streak to five straight after toppling Cal State Fullerton and Hawai‘i last week. Tied for first place in the Big West at 6-1 with UC Davis and UC Irvine, the 49ers host a pair of games this week, including a showdown with the Anteaters.
Caffey Hits 1,500: Senior Mike Caffey’s career-high 34 points against Cal State Fullerton pushed the guard over the 1,500-point plateau. He finished the week with 1,522 points and No. 8 in LBSU history. He’s six points away from overtaking Ramel Lloyd (1,527) for the No. 7 spot and 17 from leapfrogging No. 6 Larry Anderson (1,538).
Impressive Stretch: Caffey helped the 49ers eradicate a late 11-point deficit versus CSF by scoring 23 of his team’s final 38 points, including four three-pointers. He has now exceeded the 20-point mark nine times this season.
Rebounding Ruckus: Senior David Samuels is averaging 11.7 rebounds in the last six contests. His 13 boards against CSF represented his fourth double-digit effort over that six-game span.
On Verge Of History: The Aggies won for the seventh time in eight games with Saturday’s overtime victory against Cal Poly. At 16-4 overall, UC Davis seeks to become first Big West program to go from single-digit wins to 20 since Utah State in 1981-82 (4-23) to 1982-83 (20-9). The Aggies were 9-22 last season.
Unbeaten At Home: UC Davis improved to 10-0 at home with four games remaining at The Pavilion this season. The Aggies seek to become first team to finish undefeated for an entire season at home since Long Beach State (12-0) in 2011-12. Coincidentally, this year’s 49ers are 7-0 at home.
Automatic: Seniors Corey Hawkins leads the NCAA in three-point field goal percentage (.526), a figure that, if the season ended today, would rank No. 1 in Big West single-season history. UC Irvine’s Mike Doktorczyk (1988-89) is the current leader at .519.
Marksmen: UC Davis ranks No. 4 nationally in field goal percentage (.502), and has registered 50 percent or better shooting in 13 of its 20 games.
Six In A Row: UC Irvine has reeled off six straight wins since losing its opener in Big West play. It’s UCI’s longest conference winning streak since capturing eight straight in 2005-06.
The Benchmark For Success: UCI held Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara to 57 and 55 points, respectively, the eighth and ninth time this season an Anteater opponent has been held under 60. The Anteaters are 9-0 in such games. Dating back to the 2011-12 season, the UCI program has won 41 straight games when holding their opponent to 60 points or less.
Big Games Ahead: Sharing first place in the Big West with UC Davis and Long Beach State at 6-1, the Anteaters play both foes this week. UCI has won the last seven straight meetings against the Aggies.
Davis II Nears 200 Blocks: Senior Will Davis II needs two blocked shots to become just the third player in Big West history with 200 in a career. UCI’s all-time leader in blocks, Davis II trails only the UC Santa Barbara duo of Alan Williams (208) and Eric McArthur (249) on the list.
Another Close Win: UC Riverside improved to 4-4 this season in games decided by five points or less, outlasting CSUN in a 66-62 final on Saturday. The Highlanders were 5-11 in those types of games last season.
Freebie Stat: The Highlanders are 7-1 this season when they attempt 20 or more free throws in a game. UCR canned a season-high 24 free throws (in 31 attempts) in the CSUN victory.
Johns Sets Free Throw Record: Junior forward Taylor Johns went 13-for-13 at the free throw line in Saturday’s win over CSUN. That broke the school single-game record for most free throw attempts in a game without a miss, which originally belonged to Jason Labagh (12-for-12) in 1999-2000 and later tied by Javon Borum in 2010-11.
More On Johns: Johns posted his seventh game with 20 points or more as he scored 27 against CSUN. The Highlanders are 6-1 this season when he reaches that mark. Johns is now just 116 points away from hitting the 1,000-point career milestone.
UC SANTA BARBARA
One Focus: UC Santa Barbara plays just one game this week, hosting Hawai‘i in an ESPNU televised game on Saturday. The Gauchos are coming off of a pair of losses last week to UC Davis and UC Irvine.
Big Al Sidelined: UCSB’s leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker – senior Alan Williams – has missed the last four contests with a shoulder injury sustained in practice Jan. 20. It is unknown whether Williams will suit up for Saturday’s game against UH.
Vincent For Three: Guard Gabe Vincent’s 33 three-pointers rank as the fifth-most in a single-season by a UCSB freshman. He needs six more to move past James Powell (2006-07) into the No. 4 spot.
Z-Harmony: Senior point guard Zalmico Harmon missed both games last week with the flu. In his last eight games played, Harmon has dished out 41 assists against just eight turnovers. For the season, he has 78 assists and 27 turnovers, ranking No. 27 nationally with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.89.
Road Split: The Rainbow Warriors claimed their first Big West road win after toppling CSUN, but fell to Long Beach State. Hawai‘i concludes a four-game roadtrip this week with contests at Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara.
Steal Fest: UH ranks No. 3 in the country this week in both steals per game (10.4) and total steals (239). The team’s 15 steals against Long Beach State last Saturday represented the seventh time in the last nine games with double-digit steals.
Bobbitt The Chief Thief: The centerpiece of UH’s steal happy defense is junior Roderick Bobbitt. The junior college transfer ranks No. 2 nationally in both steals per game (3.22) and total steals (74). He is just four steals off the national leader, VCU’s Briante Weber, who has 78. Bobbitt is four steals away from entering the Big West single-season top 10 list.
Good Things: Hawai‘i shot 53.7 percent (29-of-54) in the win over CSUN, and raised its record to 5-0 this season when shooting 50 percent or better.