UC Irvine (7-7) at UC Santa Barbara (4-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 3, 10 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Thunderdome (6,000) -- Santa Barbara, California. Television: None. Home Record: UCI 4-1, UCSB 3-1. Away Record: UCI 2-5, UCSB 1-7. Neutral Record: UCI 1-1, UCSB 0-0. Conference Record: UCI 1-0, UCSB 0-1. Series Record: UC Santa Barbara leads, 47-30.
GAME NOTES: The Anteaters of UC Irvine shoot for their first three-game win streak of the season on Thursday, as they clash with the Gauchos of UC Santa Barbara in Big West Conference action in the Thunderdome.
UCI actually had a very successful month of December on the hardwood, winning four of six contests overall. The team most recently took the floor on Dec. 29 and captured a 69-58 overtime win against UC Davis, during which the Anteaters held the visitors scoreless in the extra session as they won for the third time in the last four outings.
As for the Gauchos, they are currently slipping away on a three-game losing streak. The team bowed to Cal State Fullerton on the road last weekend, 86-79, marking its fourth loss in the last five outings overall and dropping it four games under .500 in the process.
UC Santa Barbara leads the all-time series against the Anteaters by a count of 47-30, thanks in part to an 85-62 blowout victory in the most recent encounter last season in Irvine.
UC Irvine was forced to go to overtime last Saturday night versus visiting UC Davis, but when the Anteaters needed it most, the defense came alive and held the Aggies without a single point in the bonus session. Except for Michael Wilder who tallied six points in just under 40 minutes of action, every starter for the Anteaters ended up in double figures, led by Adam Folker with 15 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Daman Starring matched Folker in the scoring column and also pulled down seven boards of his own, while Alex Young and Will Davis II tacked on 12 and 10 points, respectively. On a team that is scoring a modest 69.8 ppg, Starring it the only one putting up double digits on a consistent basis with his 13.5 ppg stemming from 47.2 percent accuracy beyond the arc. Defensively, this is a group allowing just 36.0 percent shooting from the floor and 27.5 percent from long range at the moment.
Alan Williams put forth a stellar effort for the Gauchos against Cal State Fullerton last weekend, registering 22 points and a game-high 16 rebounds, but even that was not enough to keep UCSB from falling into the loss column. Taran Brown accounted for another 20 points and eight boards for the visitors, followed by Lewis Thomas with 11 points, but the squad was guilty of 14 turnovers and was outscored at the free-throw line by a massive 20-2 margin. One of three players to have started all 12 games so far, Williams is averaging a double-double for the Gauchos with 16.8 points and 10.2 rebounds per contest, both of which are tops on the team. Despite his freshman status, Brown checks in with 13.3 ppg and 5.8 rpg for a team that is putting up 65.5 ppg, despite being held back by 15.2 turnovers per contest.
The Gauchos definitely have some talented players, but their youth will probably keep them from registering wins on a consistent basis and that in turn should benefit UC Irvine on Thursday night.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UC Irvine 68, UC Santa Barbara 64
01/03 10:40:50 ET