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UC Riverside (3-10) at Cal State Northridge (9-4)

The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 3, 10:05 p.m. (et)

FACTS & STATS: Site: The Matadome (1,600) -- Northridge, California. Television: Big West TV. Home Record: UCR 3-3, CSUN 4-0. Away Record: UCR 0-5, CSUN 2-4. Neutral Record: UCR 0-2, CSUN 3-0. Conference Record: UCR 0-1, CSUN 0-1. Series Record: Cal State Northridge leads, 36-31. .

GAME NOTES: The UC Riverside Highlanders and Cal State Northridge Matadors will both be vying for their first Big West Conference victory when they collide at The Matadome on Thursday.

Jim Wooldridge's Highlanders will be looking to bounce back after blowing an 11-point lead in the second half to be defeated, 58-48, by Cal Poly in their conference opener. UC Riverside is now sporting a disappointing 3-10 overall record after being dealt losses in four of its last five appearances. The Highlanders are the worst offensive team in the conference with a mere average of 57.2 points per game. They are however ranked third in scoring defense as they are limiting the opposition to 65.3 ppg.

Cal State Northridge had its two-game winning streak, that included a five- point decision over Utah, ended with a 74-71 loss at Hawaii in its first taste of Big West action of the year on Dec. 30. The Matadors are now 9-4 overall after beginning the 2012-13 campaign with six wins in a row. Coach Bobby Braswell's squad has a contrasting style to the visitors, as it is second in the conference in scoring with 80.5 ppg, but its opponents have produced 73.5 ppg, which is the third worst scoring defense average in the Big West.

Although CSUN holds a 36-31 all-time series lead over their Golden State rivals, UC Riverside has been triumphant in three of the last four meetings. The Highlanders escaped their Feb. 22, 2012 visit to the Matadome with a 63-61 victory.

UC Riverside was unable to get it done against Cal Poly its last time out as its poor 30.8 shooting performance after halftime ruined its chances. The Highlanders were held scoreless for the final 4:24 of the contest and the Mustangs took care of business at the free throw line to bury them. Chris Harriel led the team with 14 points while Chris Patton chipped in with 12 points. Although he has been held to eight points or less on six separate occasions this season, Harriel is averaging a team-best 10.7 ppg. Patton is netting 10.2 ppg after three-straight double-digit scoring outings and Josh Fox is helping the Highlanders on the boards with 6.1 per contest. Freshman forward Taylor Johns (5.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg) is becoming a bigger part of the rotation by the game and is due for a breakout performance.

The Matadors have impressive numbers on the offensive end due to their talented sophomore guard Stephan Hicks, who is third on the conference leaderboard with 18.4 points per contest to go along with 8.5 rpg. Hicks gave CSUN a chance against Hawaii by tallying 25 points and eight boards and Stephen Maxwell added a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. Junior guard Josh Greene, who is the Matadors' second leading scorer (13 ppg) and best distributor (4.5 apg), also got into the mix by netting 15 points on 6- of-14 shooting from the floor.

Cal State Northridge's close loss to the Warriors on the road showed that it is a talented and capable unit. UC Riverside will need to shut down Hicks and make the other Matadors step into unfamiliar roles. or it will quickly fall to 0-2 in the league standings.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cal State Northridge 71, UC Riverside 61

01/03 10:42:36 ET

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