UC Riverside (14-16) vs. Cal Poly (17-14)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 8, 11:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Honda Center (17,608) -- Anaheim, California. Television: None. Home Record: UCR 8-5, Cal Poly 10-4. Away Record: UCR 5-9, Cal Poly 5-10. Neutral Record: UCR 1-2, Cal Poly 2-0. Conference Record: UCR 7-9, Cal Poly 8-8. Series Record: UC Riverside leads, 43-42.
GAME NOTES: The quarterfinal round of the Big West Tournament concludes tonight in Anaheim with the fifth-seeded Highlanders of UC Riverside taking on the No. 4 seed Cal Poly Mustangs at the Honda Center.
UC Riverside ended its 2011-12 regular season on a high-note, notching a thrilling 72-69 overtime victory against UC Irvine last Saturday. The win helped the squad to rebound from a tough 64-40 verdict at Long Beach State back on Feb. 25, and gave the Highlanders a bit of momentum heading into the tournament with wins in three of their last four outings.
As for Cal Poly, the Mustangs ended their regular-season slate with a modest two-game win streak to break out of a three-game funk in the form of a 67-38 final against Pacific last weekend. The win boosted Cal Poly's overall mark to 17-14, and gave the club an even 8-8 mark in Big West action.
UC Riverside owns a slight 43-42 advantage over the Mustangs in terms of the all-time series between the two rivals.
The Highlanders went into the break leading UC Irvine by a 36-26 margin, and at one point owned a 16-point lead during the second stanza, but the Anteaters erased the deficit and sent the contest into overtime on a three-pointer with just 4.4 seconds remaining on the clock. The Highlanders scored the first seven points during the extra session, however, and held UCI at bay down the stretch to earn a three-point win. The Highlanders shot just 37.7 percent from the field during the meeting, but held UCI to just 37.5 percent shooting as well, and the squad did manage to put together a 28-of-40 effort at the charity stripe. Phil Martin poured in a game-high 27 points to pace the Highlanders, while Kareem Nitoto added 13 points and pulled down nine rebounds. Robert Smith got into the mix as well, finishing with 11 points from off the bench. Currently, the Highlanders own just a lone player with a double-digit scoring average, thanks mostly in part to the fact that the club averages only 59.6 points per game. Martin leads the way with a 17.6 ppg tally, while Smith has chipped in a respectable 9.1 ppg as well. The Highlanders are shooting at an underwhelming 40.9 percent clip as a team this season, with struggles from both beyond the arc (31.1 percent) and at the foul line (69.2 percent), but UCR has made up for some of those shortcomings by limiting their opponents to just 62.9 ppg on a 39.2 percent shooting pace.
The Mustangs hit an impressive 54.3 percent of their attempts from the field during the 29-point win over Pacific, limiting the Tigers to a mere 31.1 percent clip and forcing 17 giveaways in the process. Chris Eversley came in from off the bench to net 16 points and collect 13 rebounds to lead the way for Cal Poly, while Will Taylor logged 10 points. The Mustangs led 33-24 heading into the break, but really broke the contest open over the final 20 minutes, when they managed to stifle the Tigers to a miserable 18.2 percent from the floor. The Mustangs have had the majority of their success this season take place at the defensive end of the court, where adversaries have been kept in check to the tune of 60.6 ppg. Cal Poly owns a 34.5 - 29.3 advantage on the boards over those opponents, and has limited them to just 43.8 percent from the field as well. The Mustangs average just 65.1 ppg themselves on the year, and currently own just two players with a double-digit scoring average. David Hanson leads the way with his 11.5 ppg contribution, while Taylor owns a 10.0 points and team-leading 6.8 rebounds per contest mark.
A low-scoring team meeting a stingy defense is never a good combination, so give the edge to Cal Poly here. The Mustangs don't exactly light up the scoreboard themselves, but should do just enough at the defensive end of the court to move on to the next round.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cal Poly 68, UC Irvine 63
03/08 10:34:51 ET