UC Irvine (7-6) at Arizona State (10-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 28, 2 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Wells Fargo Arena (10,754) -- Tempe, Arizona. Television: Pac-12 Network. Home Record: UC Irvine 3-3, ASU 7-0. Away Record: UC Irvine 4-3, ASU 2-0. Neutral Record: UC Irvine 0-0, ASU 1-2. Conference Record: UC Irvine 0-0, ASU 0-0. Series Record: ASU leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: After a week off, both the Arizona State Sun Devils and UC Irvine Anteaters will be back in action on Saturday as they match up in non- conference play at the Wells Fargo Arena.
Last Saturday the Anteaters earned a 63-50 road win over Denver. The win came in the third part of a four-game road trip for UC Irvine, which ends against the Sun Devils. The Anteaters are 7-6 overall and a middling 4-3 as visitors. They will face Morgan State next.
Arizona State was also on the floor last Saturday. In a bout with Texas Tech the Sun Devils recorded a 76-62 victory. It was the third straight for them and moved them to 10-2 overall and a perfect 7-0 at Wells Fargo Arena this year. Arizona State gets into its Pac-12 schedule next time out against Washington.
These teams have met twice, with Arizona State winning both events. The most recent triumph came in 1994 when the Sun Devils rolled to an 87-58 victory.
UC Irvine let up 91 points against No. 12 Oregon before facing Denver. The Anteaters clearly put more emphasis on defense in the matchup with the Pioneers, bouncing back and holding their foe to a season-low 50 points on just 34 percent shooting.
Defense isn't really UC Irvine's strong suit. The Anteaters are much more successful as an offensive unit, netting 77.3 points per game on 48.5 percent shooting. They also rank 12th nationally in assists (17.2 pg) and 40th in rebounds (39.8 pg). As with most teams, the starting lineup does most of the work, with Chris McNealy (12.4 ppg), Luke Nelson (12 ppg) and Will Davis II (11.9 ppg, 7 rpg) the top scoring options. Davis also leads the team in rebounding. Alex Young (9.6 ppg, 4.2 apg) is vital at the point and Mamadou Ndiaye (8.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.3 bpg) is a critical defensive force.
In its win over Texas Tech, Arizona State had a major advantage from 3-point distance. The Sun Devils knocked down 10-of-19 attempts, including a 7-of-9 showing after halftime, to run to a 30-3 scoring edge from beyond the arc. Jermaine Marshall finished with a game-high 27 points, netting 7-of-10 shots from 3-point range.
Keeping up with the Anteaters shouldn't be a problem for the Sun Devil who rank higher than their foes in scoring (79.8 pg), assists (17 pg) and field-goal percentage (.491). The Sun Devils have an even bigger advantage on defense as they are letting up just 64.1 points per game on 38.4 percent shooting. Marshall (15.9 ppg) is proving to be a fantastic second scoring option behind Jahii Carson (19.6 ppg, 5.8 apg). Marshall is knocking down 52.4 percent of his field goal attempts. Carson is still the go-to option and is coming off a 16-point, 13-assist effort against Texas Tech. Jordan Bachynski (12.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 4.8 bpg) cannot be ignored as he scores, rebounds and most importantly, blocks shots.
No team has yet to figure out Arizona State in Tempe this year. UC Irvine may be able to score but it can't defend well enough to be the first.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arizona State 79, UC Irvine 67
12/28 10:45:54 ET