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Fresno State (0-0) at UC Irvine (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 8, 10 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bren Events Center (5,000) -- Irvine, California. Television: None. Home Record: FSU 0-0, UCI 0-0 . Away Record: FSU 0-0, UCI 0-0. Neutral Record: FSU 0-0, UCI 0-0. Conference Record: FSU 0-0, UCI 0-0. Series Record: Fresno State leads, 26-10.
GAME NOTES: A couple of California-based basketball programs try to get the new season off on the right foot, as the Fresno State Bulldogs pay a visit to the Bren Events Center in order to do battle with the UC Irvine Anteaters on Friday night.
Now in his third season, Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry is coming off a campaign in which his players produced a record of 11-19 overall and finished seventh in the Mountain West Conference with only five wins in 16 chances. The team also posted a record of just 6-8 at the Save Mart Center, the first time the Bulldogs have finished below .500 in the building since 2003-04.
As for the Anteaters, they posted a record of 21-16 a season ago and because of that strong showing the team has been picked as the top squad in the Big West Conference for this year. Head coach Russell Turner certainly has an advantage playing at home tonight, after his program went 9-0 in league play and 12-1 overall in their own building last season.
In terms of the all-time series between the programs, Fresno State owns a 26-10 advantage over the Anteaters. However, the latest meeting went to UCI last season, 58-51, in Fresno.
Coach Terry has lost three of his five starters from a year ago and has seven newcomers making up the Fresno State roster, and that is not the way to build a contender. Senior guard Allen Huddleston is the top returning scorer for the unit after putting up 9.7 ppg, but his 34.8 percent shooting from the field was less than impressive and for at least the season opener he is listed as a reserve.
Tyler Johnson is the one player who has been a constant for the Bulldogs in recent years, this being his fourth season with the squad. He has improved his scoring output each year, culminating with 12.1 ppg a season ago as he shot a solid 40.2 percent from 3-point range.
With a collective 59.9 ppg, Fresno State ranked ninth in the conference and 325th in the country in scoring and now the numbers figure to hover at or below that level given how much the team has lost. A few years back, Kevin Olekaibe was one of the most explosive scorers in the conference, but last season he managed only 8.3 ppg in a diminished role and has since decided to transfer.
Named to the preseason all-conference team in the Big West, Will Davis is the player to watch for the Anteaters after he set the single-season record for blocked shots with 88. In addition to his defensive presence, Davis also stepped up on offense with 14.8 ppg, to go along with 8.0 rpg.
While Davis is a force in the paint for Irvine, Alex Young will handle the action out on the perimeter for the group, particularly on offense after setting the freshman single-season record for assists with 144. For his efforts Young, who accounted for 9.2 ppg, was named the Big West co-Freshman of the Year. However, Young had some issues with his shot as he made good on only 39.0 percent from the floor and 26.1 percent behind the 3-point line.
Like Young, another reliable offensive producer for the Anteaters is Chris McNealy who was credited with 9.2 ppg a season ago.
The Bulldogs have dominated the series between the teams obviously, but with Fresno State being in a state of flux, this might be the right time for UC Irvine to exact some revenge.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UC Irvine 65, Fresno State 62
11/08 10:40:28 ET
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