UC Irvine (9-7) at Long Beach State (4-10)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 9, 11 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: The Pyramid (4,200) -- Long Beach, California. Television: Fox Sports Prime Ticket. Home Record: UCI 5-3, LBSU 3-2. Away Record: UCI 4-4, LBSU 1-5. Neutral Record: UCI 0-0, LBSU 0-3. Conference Record: UCI 0-0, LBSU 0-0. Series Record: Long Beach State leads, 55-35.
GAME NOTES: The Long Beach State 49ers take aim at their 27th consecutive league win at The Pyramid as they host the UC Irvine Anteaters in the Big West Conference opener for both sides.
The Anteaters have defeated Morgan State (75-63) and San Diego Christian College (91-56) since entering the January portion of their schedule to rise to a 9-7 overall standing. UCI is 4-4 in true road games, including wins at Washington, Eastern Washington and Denver along with losses at Oregon and Arizona State. The Anteaters are the second most productive team in the Big West offensively with their average of 77 ppg, and they are also ranked fourth in scoring defense at 69.9 ppg.
LBSU had its three-game winning streak snapped on Saturday as it dropped a 69-59 decision at Missouri. The 49ers' 4-10 record is understandable considering their extremely difficult non-conference slate that included games against Arizona, Michigan, Kansas State, Virginia Commonwealth, Creighton and NC State. LBSU has won five consecutive Big West home openers and went 14-4 in league action in 2012-13. The 49ers are netting only 66.7 ppg on the campaign, but have surrendered 74.5 ppg.
LBSU has won 55 of its previous 90 matchups versus the Anteaters. However, UCI defeated the top seeded 49ers, 67-60, in last season's Big West Tournament semifinals.
UCI coasted past SDCC by hitting on 58.6 percent of its field goal tries along with 20-of-27 attempts at the charity stripe. Will Davis II posted 17 points and seven rebounds to lead the way while Chris McNealy and John Ryan added 12 points each. Davis is pacing the Anteaters on the season with 12.4 ppg on 61.4 percent shooting from the field and McNealy is chiming in with 11.6 ppg. UCI also has a big difference maker in the middle in freshman center Mamadou Ndiaye, who has made 20-of-23 shots from the floor over his past four games. The 7-foot-6 Ndiaye has rejected 55 shots on the defensive end of the floor, which is the most by any Big West player and the sixth most nationally.
UCLA transfer Tyler Lamb has made a substantial impact for the 49ers since becoming eligible on Dec. 19. The junior guard has averaged 20.9 ppg and poured in a career-best 29 points in the team's win over USC. Lamb is meshing nicely with junior point guard Mike Caffey, who is carrying averages of 16.9 points and 4.4 assists per tilt. LBSU will hope senior forward Dan Jennings (11.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg) can break out of his major slump against UCI. Jennings has tallied just 20 total points and a 6-of-15 clip at the free-throw line over his past three outings.
UCI has a definite advantage on the interior thanks to Ndiaye, but LBSU's one- two punch gives it a noticeably better backcourt. The 49ers should be well prepared to make another run at the Big West regular season crown thanks to the addition of Lamb, who proved he can compete at any level during his time as a Bruin.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Long Beach State 70, UC Irvine 66
01/09 10:34:43 ET