Cal Poly (9-9) at UC Irvine (10-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, January 30, 10 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bren Events Center (4,984) -- Irvine, California. Television: None. Home Record: Cal Poly 7-1, UCI 6-1. Away Record: Cal Poly 2-8, UCI 3-9. Neutral Record: Cal Poly 0-0, UCI 1-1. Conference Record: Cal Poly 5-3, UCI 4-4. Series Record: UC Irvine leads, 21-20.
GAME NOTES: A Big West Conference tilt is on tap for Wednesday night, as the UC Irvine Anteaters welcome the Cal Poly Mustangs to the Bren Events Center.
It's been an up-and-down season for Cal Poly en route to its 9-9 mark, but following a three-game losing streak earlier this month it has gotten back on track with wins last week over Hawaii (88-59) and Cal State Northridge (75-64). Those victories allowed the Mustangs to improve to 5-3 in league play, but both came at home, and they've won just two of 10 road matchups entering play tonight.
UCI has also been a streaky team this season, going 10-11 overall and 4-4 in the Big West. The Anteaters have been sliding of late with two straight losses, most recently falling at Long Beach State last Saturday (81-59), but now they return to the Bren Events Center where they have won six games in seven tries.
UCI leads the all-time series with Cal Poly, 21-20, but the Mustangs have closed the gap with four straight wins, including a 72-67 triumph at home on Jan. 5.
Cal Poly hasn't been the most explosive offensive team in the Big West this season -- it shoots less than 43 percent from the field for 67.8 ppg -- but it has picked up its scoring production of late by averaging 81.3 ppg in the last three games. The Mustangs were able to overcome a poor showing from 3-point range last time out (3-of-15) by shooting 46.2 percent overall and 24-of-29 from the foul line (.828) in the 11-point victory over Northridge. They were sparked by a career-night from Chris Eversley, who shot 11-of-19 from the field for 30 points, while grabbing 14 rebounds in a performance that helped him earn Big West Player of the Week honors. Brian Bennett was also useful in the win with 17 points and six boards. Eversley is one of the conference's best forwards, ranking seventh in scoring (16.4 ppg) and fourth in rebounding (7.8 rpg). Bennett forms the other half of an impressive frontcourt duo, shooting 56.1 percent from the field for 10.4 ppg. Dylan Royer scores 9.6 ppg and does most of his damage from long range (.42-of-103, .406).
The Anteaters were no match for LBSU on the road over the weekend, getting outshot from the field, 54.2 percent to 40.6 percent, on their way to their worst conference loss of the season. Despite the disappointing team effort, Will Davis II was nearly flawless in shooting 9-of-12 from the field for 18 points, while adding 12 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. Chris McNealy chipped in 10 points off the bench, but he did so on just 4- of-13 shooting. Even though UCI owns a losing record, it has the conference's second-best scoring margin (+5.0) by posting 70.0 ppg while yielding only 65.1 ppg. Daman Starring has drained 42 3-pointers at a 45.2 percent clip, which is a big reason for his team-leading 13.6 ppg. Although no other player nets double figures on a nightly basis, UCI still has plenty of depth, as five others score between 7.7 and 9.5 ppg. McNealy boasts 9.5 ppg, Alex Young (8.6 ppg) dishes out the sixth-most assists per game in the conference (4.0), and Adam Folker (8.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Michael Wilder (8.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg), and Davis II (7.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg) are all crucial frontcourt pieces.
Even though Cal Poly is trending upward and UCI hasn't been playing very well of late, the Anteaters' home court advantage will be the difference-maker in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UC Irvine 72, Cal Poly 68
01/30 10:35:45 ET