No. 1 Big West Tournament Seed Still Up For Grabs
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This Week in the Big West - February 29-March 6, 2016
2015-16 Men's Basketball Release No. 17
Long Beach State, UC Irvine and Hawai‘i enter the final week of the men's basketball regular season in contention for the Big West Tournament No. 1 seed at Honda Center, but the Rainbow Warriors are in control of their own destiny.
PRIOR TO TIPOFF
MAR. 2 – LONG BEACH STATE at CAL STATE FULLERTON (ESPN3) - Long Beach State has won seven of its last eight games. The Beach is assured of a top four finish in conference play for the eighth straight season under Dan Monson, a stretch that includes three straight outright Big West championships. A loss locks Cal State Fullerton into the No. 8 seed for the Big West Tournament, while a win gives the Titans an outside shot to move up to No. 7. Cal Poly would also need to lose twice, in which case a coin flip between CP and CSF would decide the seed.
MAR. 3 – UC RIVERSIDE AT UC SANTA BARBARA (BIGWEST.TV) - UC Santa Barbara has won a school record six straight conference games, hoping to keep its momentum going against a UC Riverside club that won at Hawai‘i last week. The Gauchos shot 50% (22 of 44) from three-point territory in road wins against CSUN and Cal State Fullerton last week, and lead all Big West teams in conference games with 110 made three-pointers. The Highlanders counter with senior Jaylen Bland, who is eighth on the Big West single-season list with 107 threes, including 50 in league action.
MAR. 3 – HAWAI‘I AT UC DAVIS (BIGWEST.TV) - Hawai‘i is 6-0 in Big West road games. The Rainbow Warriors are seeking to become the first team since Pacific in 2004-05 (9-0) to complete the conference slate with an undefeated road record. UC Davis lost an excruciatingly difficult one-point game to UC Irvine last week, and has dropped five straight. In conference play, Hawai‘i has had the most free throw attempts (391), while UC Davis is second-to-last with 213.
MAR. 3 – CAL POLY AT UC IRVINE (ESPN3) - A UC Irvine win ties the 2013-14 club for most victories (23) during the Russell Turner era. The Anteaters remain in play for the Big West Tournament No. 1 seed and regular season title, but need a win here to have a chance at making both happen. David Nwaba needs one point to reach 1,000 for his career, which would potentially put four 1,000-point scorers on the court at the same time – UCI’s Alex Young (1,218) and Luke Nelson (1,102) along with Cal Poly’s Brian Bennett (1,078).
Lucky Seven?: Cal Poly can do no worse than the No. 7 seed in the upcoming Big West Tournament with a win at either UC Irvine or UC Santa Barbara this week. The Mustangs became the first No. 7 seed in history to win the conference tourney in 2014.
Food For Thought: Perhaps fortune turns the way of the Mustang in the Big West Tournament. Following Thursday’s 78-77 loss to Cal State Fullerton, eight of Cal Poly’s 14 conference games have been decided by five points or less, and the Mustangs are 2-6 in those games.
One More: Senior David Nwaba is one point away from becoming the 23rd player in Mustang history to score 1,000 career points.
Don’t Leave Him Open: Senior Reese Morgan hit six threes against Cal State Fullerton, and now has 13 treys in the last two games. The long distance shooting has led to back-to-back 20-point performances. Seventy of Morgan’s 81 buckets this season have come from beyond the arc.
CAL STATE FULLERTON
Streak Ended: Cal State Fullerton halted a five-game losing streak with a one-point victory at Cal Poly, which represented the first road win for the Titans since Jan. 7 against UC Riverside.
Hitting On All Cylinders: The Titans set a season-high for field goal percentage against Cal Poly, hitting 29 of 53 (54.7%). They also shot a season-best 53.3 percent (8 of 15) from distance.
Coggins In The Top 10: Junior Tre’ Coggins made nine threes against the Central Coast schools last week to increase his season total to 75, second-most in the Big West. The 6-2 guard moved into the CSF single-season top-10, and is tied for the No. 9 spot with Joe Small (1990-91) and Mark Hill (1988-89).
Three Headed Monster: Against Cal Poly, the trio of Coggins, Malcolm Brooks and Khalil Ahmad scored 49 of CSF’s 78 points and shot a collective 16-for-26 (61.5%) from the field.
End On Good Note: CSUN, which is ineligible for this year’s Big West Tournament, looks to end the season on a positive note on Thursday at home at UC Davis. The Matadors have not lost three straight conference games this season, and need a win against the Aggies to prolong that position.
Peculiar Stat: The Matadors have attempted either 27 or 28 free throws in five straight and six of their last seven contests.
Hale-Edmerson Climbs The Charts: With seven rebounds at Hawai‘i, senior Tre Hale-Edmerson slid into fifth place on the CSUN career list with 715, removing Thomas Shewmake (710, 2003-07) from the top five.
And Furthermore: Sitting at 299 assists, Hale-Edmerson needs one more helper to become the first Matador in school history to accumulate career numbers of at least 700 rebounds and 300 assists. He will finish his career at least sixth in Big West history in blocks. He is currently at 184.
LONG BEACH STATE
Consistent Success: Long Beach State topped UC Riverside on Saturday to improve to 10-4 in Big West play, marking the sixth straight season that the program has won 10 conference games – the longest such streak in school history.
About That Streak: LBSU’s six straight seasons of 10 or more Big West victories is tied for the third-longest such streak in Big West history. Former conference members UNLV (12), New Mexico State (7) and Utah State (6) are also atop the list.
Bibbins Enters Record Book: Sophomore Justin Bibbins poured in a career-high 26 points against UC Irvine last week, helped along by a 15 for 15 performance from the free throw line. He became only the sixth player in league history to make 15 or more free throws in a game without a miss.
Three-Point Trivia: The Beach has made a conference-leading 241 three-pointers, the third-highest single-season mark in school history. Only the 2005-06 (256) and 2006-07 (273) squads made more triples, and this year’s edition is in position to break the record.
Heartbreaker: Before a national television audience on ESPN2 and 4,573 fans at The Pavilion, UC Davis overcame a 17-point second-half deficit to briefly take a one-point lead, but fell, 61-60, to second place UC Irvine.
Fox Time: Senior Josh Fox scored 20 points against UCI for the fifth 20-point effort of the season. Over the last two games, Fox is shooting 17 for 29 (58.6%) from the field.
Developing The Three: Junior Darius Graham leads the Aggies with 44 three-point baskets and is shooting 38.6 percent from distance. He had made all of 32 threes combined in the last two seasons.
Fan Of The Close One: UC Davis has been involved in many close games during conference play. The Aggies have had seven of their 14 league games decided by five points or less, and own a 4-3 record in that situation.
Gotta Be Careful: One bugaboo for the Aggies has been turnovers. They are tied with UC Riverside for most turnovers per game (13.9) in conference play.
Up Ahead: UC Irvine earned win No. 22 in Saturday’s 62-61 nailbiter over UC Davis. That gives the ‘Eaters an opportunity to tie and then eclipse the largest victory total in the Russell Turner era. Turner’s 2013-14 club went 23-12. UCI hosts Cal Poly and travels to UC Riverside this week.
Mamadou Nears Record: Junior Mamadou Ndiaye is primed to break the UCI career blocked shots record of 208, held by Will Davis II (2011-15), sometime this week. The 7-6 center sits at 204 rejections going into Thursday’s game. Ndiaye has 20 blocks over the last seven games.
Next: Senior guard Alex Young dished out a season-high nine assists versus Long Beach State on Wednesday. He has had five or more assists in each of the last four games. Young’s 543 career assists in No. 8 in Big West history, three shy of surpassing Long Beach State’s Casper Ware (545) for seventh and seven short of UNLV’s Dedan Thomas (549) in sixth.
Hot Shots: UCI shot a season-best 64.2% (34 of 53) against LBSU, and is 9-0 when shooting 50 percent or better.
Big Win: UC Riverside sported its biggest win of the season in Thursday’s 77-71 triumph at first-place Hawai‘i, handing the Rainbow Warriors only their third loss in 20 home games. It was the fourth conference road win for UCR, which sets a program Division I record.
More On Those Road Wins: The Highlanders have a chance to finish above .500 in Big West road games for the first time in their Division I history when they travel to UC Santa Barbara on Thursday. UCR is 4-3 in conference away games. Over the previous three seasons, UCR was 3-22 on the road in Big West play.
Century Club Charter Member: Senior Jaylen Bland registered his eighth game with at least five triples, hitting five in the win at UH, and enters this week with 107 for the season. That’s a figure placing him eighth in Big West single-season history. Next up in seventh is UC Irvine’s Scott Brooks (111, 1986-87).
Secean’s Mission: Junior Secean Johnson is averaging 19.7 points over the last three games.
UC SANTA BARBARA
That’s A First: UC Santa Barbara’s current six-game winning streak in conference is a school record. The Gauchos previously have won five in a row in league, including as recent as the 2014-15 season, but are now in uncharted territory heading down the home stretch.
Fabulous February: UCSB has revved up its play in the month of February in each of the last three seasons, posting an aggregate record of 17-4. The Gauchos polished off this February with a 6-1 mark.
Vincent Heating Up: Sophomore Gabe Vincent is shooting 47.8% (11 of 23) from long distance over the last three games. He hit four threes against both UC Davis and CSUN, and three more versus Cal State Fullerton. The 6-3 guard is a big reason for UCSB leading all teams with 110 three-point baskets during Big West play.
Shooting Display: The Gauchos shot a season-best 55.0% (33 of 60) in their last outing against Cal State Fullerton, and canned 13 three-pointers for their second-highest output from distance this season.
What’s At Stake: Hawai‘i can wrap up the No. 1 seed in the Big West Tournament with a win at UC Davis on Thursday or Long Beach State on Saturday. With one more win, the worst the ‘Bows can do is tie for first-place with UC Irvine for the regular season title, but a season sweep over the Anteaters gives UH the tiebreaker for the top seed.
What’s At Stake Part II: UH can clinch the outright Big West regular season crown on Thursday with a win at UC Davis, coupled with a UC Irvine loss to Cal Poly. The ‘Bows are seeking their first conference title since winning the WAC in 2001-02.
What A Job: First-year head Eran Ganot has led UH to a 23-4 record, and inching closer to a Big West record. The record for wins by a rookie head coach in the Big West is jointly held by legends Jerry Tarkanian (1969-70) and Lute Olson (1973-74), who won 24 games in their first year at Long Beach State.
Janks: Junior Stefan Jankovic is tied for second among Big West players with eight 20-point games this season.