UC Santa Barbara (7-13) at UC Irvine (11-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 2, 10 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bren Events Center (5,000) -- Irvine, California. Television: None. Home Record: UCSB 5-4, UCI 7-1. Away Record: UCSB 2-9, UCI 3-9. Neutral Record: UCSB 0-0, UCI 1-1. Conference Record: UCSB 3-6, UCI 5-4. Series Record: UC Santa Barbara leads, 48-30.
GAME NOTES: The UC Santa Barbara Gauchos attempt to recover from a tough loss, as they close out their two-game road swing with a Big West Conference bout against the UC Irvine Anteaters at the Bren Events Center.
The second meeting of the season between these schools marks the 79th all- time, with the Gauchos leading the series, 48-30. UCSB has won five of the last six games against UCI, including a 74-71 verdict in Santa Barbara on Jan. 3. Alan Williams converted a traditional three-point play in the closing seconds to lift the Gauchos to the victory in the thrilling matchup in Irvine, a contest in which the Anteaters held a 13-point lead before losing.
The Gauchos have gone 2-5 since defeating UCI in early January, but only one of the losses came by a double-digit margin. UCSB endured its third defeat in a row on Thursday when it was handed a tough 57-55 loss by the Big West- leading Long Beach State 49ers. The Gauchos showed they can be successful away from home earlier in the season with an overtime victory over Santa Clara and a seven-point win at UC Davis. However, the setback to the 49ers dropped the team to a disappointing 7-13 overall, which includes its 3-6 mark in Big West action.
The Anteaters have been streaky en route to their 11-11 overall record, but they have been nearly perfect with seven wins and just one loss at the Bren Events Center. UC Irvine snapped a brief two-game slide its last time out with a 52-45 triumph over Cal Poly. The win did not come easy, the team trailed by a point with less than two minutes to play. The Anteaters went 8-of-8 at the free throw line to power an 8-0 game-closing run for the victory.
UCSB appeared as if it was destined for its third overtime game of the season on Wednesday after Michael Bryson knocked down a clutch 3-pointer to even the score at 55-55 with under 10 seconds remaining in regulation. LBSU's Mike Caffey managed to draw a foul at midcourt from Kyle Boswell and sealed the deal at the charity stripe. The Gauchos played tough defense in limiting the 49ers to 37 percent shooting from the field, but they converted only 33.9 percent of their shots from the floor and got outscored 18-10 at the free throw line. Kyle Boswell netted 13 points and Taran Brown logged 12 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
Williams is the Gauchos' leading scorer with 17.4 ppg, but he has missed the last three games and is doubtful to return on Saturday due to a left hamstring injury. Boswell and Brown contributed 13.0 and 12.8 ppg, respectively, but no other player on the team produces more that six points per outing. Nate Garth and T.J. Taylor are both excellent passers as they combine to hand out 8.1 assists a game. As expected with the poor overall record, UCSB has a negative scoring margin as the opposition nets an average 4.5 more points per game.
UCI was led by Adam Folker's 16 points and nine rebounds in its recent seven- point win over Cal Poly. Senior guard Daman Starring added 12 points as the Anteaters outscored the Mustangs in the paint, 26-16. Starring is the only double-digit scorer on the squad at 13.5 ppg and even though he tallied a dozen in the recent win, his shooting slump continued. The 6-foot-3 combo guard is 10-of-32 from the floor with nine turnovers over the span of his last three games. Still, Starring is a danger to UCSB due to his tendency to launch and drain 3-pointers (44-of-97). Chris McNealy is the second scoring option with 9.4 ppg, while Folker chimes in with 9.1 points and a team-best 6.5 boards per game.
Despite falling in the first encounter of the season between these two squads, UCI holds a huge edge heading into this one. Williams produced a double-double of 22 points and 10 boards and made the clutch basket to down the Anteaters in Santa Barbara. The new venue and absence of Williams should be enough for UC Irvine to reverse its fortunes against UCSB.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UC Irvine 66, UC Santa Barbara 59
02/02 10:37:27 ET