GAME NOTES: All alone in last place in the Big West Conference standings, the Highlanders of UC Riverside seek a favorable result when they take the floor against the UC Irvine Anteaters at the Bren Events Center on Wednesday night.
UCR is currently riding a five-game slide and has dropped eight of the last nine contests overall after bowing to Cal State Fullerton last Saturday in a 79-67 decision at home. Not only is the team a mere 2-9 in conference play, it is also a just 1-9 in true road games which doesn't bode well for this particular clash.
As for the Anteaters, they are stuck in the middle of the pack in the Big West, having split their 12 league bouts. However, the squad has fallen in two straight outings, both on the road, with a 70-61 setback at Cal State Northridge a week ago, and then a 78-72 defeat at the hands of the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors on Saturday night in Honolulu.
Of the two conference wins claimed by UCR, one came against the Anteaters last month at home in a 68-58 final as Chris Patton scored 21 points, Chris Harriel 17 and Josh Fox 10 points, to go along with a game-high 10 rebounds for the hosts. Daman Starring led all scorers with 22 points for UCI in the setback.
Despite the loss in that first encounter of the season, UCI still leads the all-time series by a count of 29-23.
Patton erupted for a career-high 36 points, shooting a staggering 14-of-16 from the floor for the Highlanders on Saturday night, but still that wasn't enough as the team bowed to Cal State Fullerton at home by double digits. Patton, who played 32 minutes, added six rebounds and a couple of assists for the Highlanders as the team shot 54.2 percent from the floor, but just 4-of-15 beyond the arc and 11-of-20 at the free-throw line. Harriel chipped in with another 10 points, to go along with seven boards and six dishes in the losing cause.
Patton, who has started all but two of the 22 games in which he has appeared, paces the program in scoring with 13.5 ppg and is also one of the top rebounders at the moment with five and a half per contest, second only to Fox (10.2 ppg) who is bringing down closer to seven rebounds every time out. Harriel pitches in with 10.9 ppg, but his mere 25.8 percent accuracy beyond the arc and 37.3 percent from the floor overall is less than encouraging.
At home on the island, the Rainbow Warriors have been tough to beat and UC Irvine found that out over the weekend as the team scored 72 points and still came up short. Alex Young tallied 20 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the visitors, followed by Starring with 18 points and Chris McNealy 10 and six boards off the bench as the squad was outscored 21-5 at the free-throw line.
Averaging 68.7 ppg at the moment, the Anteaters are getting by with just 64.1 percent accuracy at the charity stripe where they've been outscored by 80 points thus far. Keeping the team competitive is Starring with his 13.5 ppg, but he is the only one in double figures right now, thanks to his 42.2 percent shooting from beyond the arc which is actually better than his 41.9 percent from the floor overall.
Riverside's efforts on the road have been disappointing this season to say the least and there is little reason to believe the team will be able to find enough offense to get the job done on Wednesday night either.