Cal State-Northridge (9-7) at UC Irvine (8-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 12, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bren Events Center (4,984) -- Irvine, California. Television: FSN-PT. Home Record: CSUN 4-2, UCI 5-1. Away Record: CSUN 2-5, UCI 2-7. Neutral Record: CSUN 3-0, UCI 1-1. Conference Record: CSUN 0-4, UCI 2-2. Series Record: UC Irvine leads, 26-22.
GAME NOTES: The Cal State-Northridge Matadors will try to halt their season- long, four-game losing streak on Saturday as they face the UC Irvine Anteaters in a Big West Conference showdown at the Bren Events Center.
Northridge's season got off to a flying start, with wins in each of its first six games and nine of its first 12, but things have gone south in a hurry upon entering its Big West schedule. The Matadors' fourth straight loss, all in conference, took place on Wednesday night in a 78-69 final at Long Beach State.
UCI hasn't gotten much going on the season as it sits with an 8-9 mark overall, but it has fared better than Northridge of late by going 2-2 in the Big West. The Anteaters defeated Hawaii on Wednesday night, 68-64, and in the process improved to 5-1 at home.
The Anteaters hold a 26-22 advantage in the all-time series with Northridge, which includes wins in both matchups a season ago.
The Matadors put forth one of their worst shooting efforts of the season in their nine-point loss to Long Beach State earlier this week, making good on only 40.7 percent of their field goal attempts (including 5-of-16 from 3-point range) while going a mere 16-of-30 from the foul line. Overcoming the mediocrity of his teammates was Stephan Hicks, who matched a career-high with 26 points while also ripping down eight rebounds. Stephen Maxwell was also impressive in defeat, logging a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds. It was an off night for Northridge, which averages the second-most points in the Big West (79.1 ppg), although it also ranks last in scoring defense (75.2 ppg). Hicks is the league's third-leading scorer, as he pours in 18.7 ppg on greater than 53 percent field goal shooting. He also ranks in the top-five in both rebounds (8.2 rpg) and steals (1.9 spg). Maxwell (12.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg) is also an efficient field goal shooter at 54.1 percent, and Josh Greene (12.8 ppg, 4.2 apg) has drained nearly 90 percent of his free throw attempts.
In what was a back-and-forth contest for the first 35 minutes, UCI was able to pull away from Hawaii down the stretch to capture the four-point win. The Anteaters were hampered by a low 39 percent shooting effort, but they held the Rainbow Warriors to an even lower 35.6 percent, and they won the turnover battle by a 16-11 margin. Chris McNealy played well off the bench, putting up 15 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals. Will Davis II scored 13 points, Daman Starring had 12, Alex Young netted 10, and Adam Folker ripped down 12 rebounds in the win. The Anteaters average 69.6 ppg, and they have been able to hover around .500 by outshooting their opponents, 43 percent to 37.2 percent. Starring nets 13.5 ppg thanks mostly to his active nature from beyond the arc, draining 33-of-70 3-point tries (.471). McNealy (9.0 ppg) and Young (8.9 ppg) have combined for 107 assists against only 36 turnovers, Folker chips in with 8.9 ppg and 6.7 rpg, while Michael Wilder (7.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and Davis II (6.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.9 bpg) round out the balanced attack.
Northridge showed early in the year that it has the talent to win games, but while it continues to put up solid point totals, it has entered a prolonged slump by playing poorly at the defensive end. UCI may not have any playmakers as good as Hicks, but it has performed well on its home court and should come away with another conference win here.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UC Irvine 77, Cal State-Northridge 72
01/12 10:33:17 ET