Long Beach State (5-8) at UC Santa Barbara (5-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 5, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: The Thunderdome (6,000) -- Santa Barbara, California. Television: None. Home Record: LBSU 3-2, UCSB 4-1. Away Record: LBSU 2-6, UCSB 1-7. Neutral Record: LBSU 0-0, UCSB 0-0. Conference Record: LBSU 1-1, UCSB 1-1. Series Record: Long Beach State leads, 59-55.
GAME NOTES: A pair of Big West Conference foes sporting identical 5-8 records will square off on Saturday night, as the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos play host to the Long Beach State 49ers.
Considering its 25-9 record a season ago and its berth in the NCAA Tournament, Long Beach State's first two months of this campaign have been especially disappointing. After losing just one conference game in 16 tries last year, the 49ers suffered a 79-73 setback to Cal Poly on Thursday night, their fifth loss in their last seven games.
UCSB has also under performed so far, but after losses in six of its previous eight games, it was able to claim its first conference win of the season with a 74-71 decision over UC Irvine. Despite their disappointing record, the Gauchos have been strong on their home floor, going 4-1 at The Thunderdome.
The all-time series between these two remains close after 114 meetings, with Long Beach State holding a 59-55 advantage, which includes wins in each of the last three meetings.
In a back-and-forth affair with Cal Poly, Long Beach State took a 50-49 lead with 11:48 left in the second half on a Keala King 3-pointer, but the Mustangs reclaimed the advantage on their very next possession and never relinquished it. James Ennis led the way in defeat with 22 points, draining 10 of his 11 free throw attempts and adding five blocked shots. King was a spark plug off the bench with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Mike Caffey rounded out the 49ers' double-digit scorers with 13 points. LBSU has been outplayed in nearly every facet of the game this season, as it shoots just 40.3 percent from the field for 65.8 ppg, while allowing the opposition to net 74.1 ppg, second-most in the league. It also regularly loses the rebounding battle (minus-4.7) and commits nearly two more turnovers per game than its foes. Despite the team's struggles, Ennis has been reliable in the frontcourt with 17.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg, and nearly two blocks per contest. Caffey adds 11.3 ppg and dishes out 4.2 apg, while Dan Jennings tallies 10.2 ppg and 6.5 rpg.
UCSB was down by double-digits to UC Irvine for much of the first half, but it was able to salvage a poor start by making a lofty 63 percent of its field goal attempts after intermission. Kyle Boswell was fantastic off the bench, shooting 8-of-15 from the field, including 6-of-10 from beyond the arc, on his way to 23 points, which tied a career-high. Alan Williams was also impressive in the win with 22 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks, Taran Brown netted 18 points, and T.J. Taylor chipped in with nine points and eight assists. The Gauchos are typically strong from 3-point range, making more than nine treys per contest at a 36.9 percent clip, but they still only score 66.2 ppg, which is 4.6 ppg fewer than their opponents. Williams is one of the conference's strongest performers, ranking sixth in scoring (17.2 ppg) and first in both rebounding (10.2 rpg) and blocks (2.2 bpg). Brown (13.7 ppg) and Boswell (12.4 ppg) have been solid from long range, combining for nearly six 3-pointers per game at greater than a 39 percent clip.
Both teams have been inconsistent this season, so it's difficult to predict how each will respond on a nightly basis. The Gauchos have been strong at home, while Long Beach State is shaky at best on the road.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UC Santa Barbara 73, Long Beach State 68
01/05 10:33:03 ET