UC Riverside (1-3) vs. Northeastern (2-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, November 21, 11:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Sullivan Arena (8,700) -- Anchorage, Alaska. Television: None. Home Record: UCR 1-1, Northeastern 1-1. Away Record: UCR 0-2, Northeastern 1-0. Neutral Record: UCR 0-0, Northeastern 0-0. Conference Record: UCR 0-0, Northeastern 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The 35th annual Great Alaska Shootout opens on Wednesday night at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, as the UC Riverside Highlanders take on the Northeastern Huskies.
The winner will play either Belmont or Alaska-Anchorage in the next round on Thursday, with the losers facing off in a consolation game.
UCR was picked last in the preseason Big West Conference poll, and early on it has shown why. The squad dropped three straight lackluster efforts to start the year against DePaul (91-59), Illinois-Chicago (59-52), and Fresno State (39-30) before finally putting one in the win column at home against Whitman College (89-76).
Northeastern's season started off promising with back-to-back wins, including an impressive road victory over Ivy League-favorite Princeton (67-66). The Huskies then returned home only to suffer a letdown versus Vermont in their latest game, losing 66-55.
This tilt marks the first-ever meeting between these two programs.
The Highlanders' first three games were an offensive struggle, but they were able to break out against Whitman College by shooting nearly 53 percent from the floor. Even with that impressive effort however, they are still shooting a lowly 39.7 percent from the field while putting up less than 58 ppg. Chris Harriel shined in the latest win with a career-high 26 points, while adding eight rebounds and five assists. Josh Fox tallied 18 points, and Robert Smith netted 17 on 7-of-11 from the field (3-of-6 from beyond the arc). Starting forward Chris Patton (9.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg) missed the game due to illness, and Lucas Devenny filled in admirably with a career-high 15 rebounds and four blocked shots. On the season, Fox (11.8 ppg) and Smith (10.0 ppg) are the only players who average double figures in points, and the team has had serious turnover issues, committing more than 18 per contest.
Northeastern has been solid, albeit unspectacular, with its offensive production, as it scores 62.3 ppg on 45.4 percent shooting from the field, although it is coming off its worst performance of the year. The Huskies managed to connect on just 20-of-54 field goal attempts (.370) in their latest loss. One player who wasn't effected by the poor shooting night was Joel Smith, who notched a game-high 25 points while connecting on five of the team's eight three-pointers. The performance only adds to Smith's solid early- season numbers (17.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.7 apg). Reggie Spencer (14.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg) was the only other Husky with a night worth writing home about with 10 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. Quincy Ford (15.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg) had played well in the team's first two wins, but he was a non-factor against Vermont with only seven points and five turnovers.
Considering the type of production these two teams have shown so far, added to the very long trip they had to make, no one should be surprised if this one is a low-scoring affair. UCR beat up on Whitman College, but it has yet to prove it can threaten a Division I squad. Expect Northeastern to bounce back.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northeastern 60, UC Riverside 52
11/21 10:36:40 ET