Pacific (8-13) at UC Irvine (9-13)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 4th, 10:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bren Events Center (5,000) -- Irvine, California. Television: None. Home Record: Pacific 6-5, UCI 6-4. Away Record: Pacific 2-8, UCI 3-7. Neutral Record: Pacific 0-0, UCI 0-2. Conference Record: Pacific 4-5, UCI 5-4. Series Record: Pacific leads, 39-36.
GAME NOTES: Rolling along on a season-high three-game win streak, the UC Irvine Anteaters now set their sights on the Pacific Tigers for a Big West Conference showdown at the Bren Events Center.
Since dropping three straight games to conference foes in the middle of January, the Anteaters have bounced back to claim a pair of victories over Big West opponents, as well as a 78-67 final versus Seattle University. Most recently, the team was in action two nights ago and captured a 68-61 win over UC Davis and that now has UCI at 5-4 in conference, which is good enough for fourth place heading into the weekend.
Tied for fifth place in the Big West with UC Riverside at 4-5, the Tigers posted a 60-52 win over those same Highlanders two nights ago on the road, marking the third win in the last four outings for Pacific.
UCI won the first meeting of the season last month with a 73-69 final in Stockton, as Michael Wilder posted a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds and Adam Folker also turned the trick with 13 points and 12 rebounds of his own. Travis Fulton registered 14 points and a game-high 14 boards for the Tigers in defeat, which means the all-time series now stands at 39-36 in favor of Pacific.
Ross Rivera shot just 2-of-7 from the floor in a reserve role for the Tigers two nights ago, but he turned around and made all but one of his 16 free throws as he led the team with 19 points in the victory over UCR on the road. Lorenzo McCloud added 14 points and Markus Duran another 11, while fellow starter Travis Fulton posted eight points and a team-best 10 rebounds. McCloud leads the team in scoring overall this season with 10.7 ppg, while Rivera chips in another 10.2 ppg even though he has come off the bench in all but two of his appearances. Struggling on offense, the Tigers are being credited with just 63.3 ppg this season, shooting only 39.5 percent from the floor, but at least the competition is not that far ahead with an average of 66.3 ppg on 42.4 percent from the field.
Luckily for the Anteaters their meeting with UC Davis wasn't that close on Thursday night, or else the home team's awful 14-of-28 showing at the free- throw line could have been their downfall. Instead, Chris McNealy led four starters in double figures as he dropped in 16 points, followed by Daman Starring with 13 points, six rebounds, six assists and four steals, followed by Michael Wilder and Adam Folker with 12 and 11 points, respectively. One of the more balanced offenses in the conference, the Anteaters are putting up a modest 66.9 ppg but have just two players scoring in double figures as Starring and Wilder generate 11.6 and 11.5 ppg, respectively, which means there are many players who make this offense operate and it can change on a nightly basis. The big issue with this group is that they are shooting just 64.9 percent at the charity stripe through 22 games.
In a close game, the Anteaters could easily be at a disadvantage if free-throw shooting becomes a factor, so figure on Pacific taking care of business on the road again tonight.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Pacific 64, UC Irvine 60
02/04 10:35:06 ET