UC Irvine (10-9) at UC Riverside (4-13)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 19, 10 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: UC Riverside Student Recreation Center(3,168) -- Riverside, California. Television: None. Home Record: UC Irvine 6-1. UC Riverside 3-4. Away Record: UC Irvine 3-7, UC Riverside 1-6. Neutral Record: UC Irvine 1-1, UC Riverside 0-3. Conference Record: UC Irvine 4-2, UC Riverside 1-4. Series Record: UC Irvine leads, 29-22.
GAMES NOTES: The UC Irvine Anteaters will look to extend a season-long winning streak when they take on the UC Riverside Highlanders in Big West Conference action at the Student Recreation Center Saturday night.
On Thursday UC Irvine pulled a bit of an upset by taking down Cal State Fullerton in convincing fashion, 92-65. The win kicked off the current three- game road trip for the Anteaters who have edged above .5000 (10-9) overall during the current stretch of wins. The victory was the third in 10 tries for the Anteaters on the road where they will play yet again next Saturday against conference-leading Long Beach State.
Although Chris Harriel's clutch 3-pointer in the final seconds managed to force overtime for UC Riverside against Long Beach State on Thursday, the Highlanders couldn't get it done in a 91-82 loss. The setback was the third straight for the Highlanders who are a dismal 4-13 overall this season including a 1-4 mark against Big West foes. The defeat also began a quick two- game homestand for UC Riverside with the Highlanders now 3-4 in such contests. UC Riverside will take on Pacific on the road in its next contest.
Last season these teams split the season series with the home team victorious in each instance. The Highlanders have won five of the last six meetings but still trail the all-time series, 29-22.
UC Irvine doubled up Cal State Fullerton on points from 3-point range (36-18) and shot at an impressive 56.5 percent clip in its rout of Cal State Fullerton on Thursday. The Anteaters had a massive 41-25 edge in rebounds as well. LEading the charge in the contest was Chris McNealy who scored 21 points off the bench to go with five rebounds and six assists.
McNealy (9.5 ppg) has turned in one of his best stretches of basketball recently, scoring in double figures in three of the last four games including the season-high effort against Cal State Fullerton. McNealy's efforts have made him one of five players on the roster scoring at least eight points per game. Daman Starring (13.7 ppg) is the only one of those players scoring in double figures though. Both Alex Young (8.6 ppg, 3.9 apg) and Michael Wilder (8.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.0 apg) have been more important in distribution as the pair have helped power the Anteaters to be the eighth-best team in the country in terms of assists (17.5 pg). Adam Folker (9.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and Will Davis (7.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg) are the top rebounders for the Anteaters, who rank 18th nationally in the category (40.6 ppg). Davis is also the second-best shot blocker in the Big West (2.3 pg).
In a game that featured 13 ties and 11 lead changes UC Riverside was able to force overtime despite trailing by as many as five points in the final minute of regulation thanks to Harriel who scored the final five points to force overtime. However in the extra session the Highlanders crumbled hitting just 2-of-6 shots, while letting the 49ers open the period on a 10-0 run.
The point total the Highlanders managed against Long Beach State was the best they have had against a Division I opponent this season. On average UC Riverside has been a very weak team on that side of the ball ranking at the very bottom of the Big West in scoring (60 ppg), assists (12.1 pg) and field goal percentage (.417). Chris Patton (!1.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Harriel (10.7 ppg) are the only players scoring in double figures although Josh Fox (9.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg) has certainly been capable of reaching that level of production. Outside of that trio only one other player scores more than seven points per game.
It has been a real struggle for UC Riverside this season and it is difficult to imagine the Highlanders managing to put together back-to-back strong offensive efforts. UC Irvine proved it can win on the road against some of the better competition in the Big West and the Highlanders are certainly not in that category.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UC Irvine 72, UC Riverside 64
01/19 10:32:02 ET