UC Riverside (11-12) at Cal Poly (13-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 9th, 10:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mott Gym (3,032) -- San Luis Obispo, California. Television: None. Home Record: UCR 6-3, Cal Poly 6-4. Away Record: UCR 4-6, Cal Poly 5-7. Neutral Record: UCR 1-2, Cal Poly 2-0. Conference Record: UCR 5-5, Cal Poly 4-6. Series Record: UC Riverside leads, 43-41.
GAME NOTES: Two struggling Big West Conference squads face off in San Luis Obispo tonight, as the Cal Poly Mustangs play host to the UC Riverside Highlanders.
After winning four of its first five Big West bouts, UC Riverside proceeded to lose four straight. The Highlanders got back on track against last-place UC Davis (59-54) last Saturday however, and are now 5-5 in conference -- good for fourth place.
Though Cal Poly has more wins than losses this season, it has not enjoyed that kind of success in conference play, losing six of its 10 Big West tilts. The Mustangs went 1-3 on their recent four game road-trip, with their latest defeat coming against CSU Bakersfield last Saturday, 69-66.
UC Riverside holds a slim lead in the all-time series, 43-41. The Highlanders have grabbed the advantage behind two straight wins, including a 60-53 triumph in the first matchup this season back on January 14.
Though UC Riverside has the league's second-best scoring defense (63.1 ppg), it has been hindered by the worst scoring offense (60.3 ppg), which it produces behind just 41.3 percent field goal efficiency. Though the Highlanders scored less than 60 points for the third consecutive game in last Saturday's matchup, they were still able to take care of a dismal UC Davis squad (1-21) by goading the Aggies into more turnovers (20) than field goals made (18). B.J. Shearry had a career day for the Highlanders, tallying 17 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. UCR is led by the Big West's second-best scorer in Phil Martin, who nets 17.6 ppg while also leading the team in rebounding (5.5 rpg). Though he missed the game against UC Davis due to personal reasons, Martin is expected back on the floor tonight. Kareem Nitoto (9.4 ppg) and Robert Smith (8.4 ppg) do what they can to help a lackluster offensive attack, but both players shoot less than 38 percent from the floor.
Cal Poly is the one Big West team that boasts an even better defense than UC Riverside, allowing just 59 ppg to its opponents. The unit has been off its game lately however, allowing 72.3 ppg in its last three tilts. While the Mustangs connected on a solid 45.7 percent of their shots in last Saturday's loss, they allowed Bakersfield to shoot 50 percent from the floor and they forced just eight turnovers. Chris Eversley led the squad with a career-high 18 points, and has averaged 11 ppg since joining the starting lineup three games ago. David Hanson (11.6 ppg), Will Taylor (10.5 ppg) and Amaurys Fermin (10 ppg) pace a modest scoring offense, which ranks seventh in the conference with 64 ppg on 42.9 percent shooting from the floor. Taylor also ranks third in the conference in both rebounding (7.3 rpg) and field goal percentage (.532). Cal Poly is one of the better teams on the boards, ranking second in the BWC in rebounding margin (+6.5).
The return of Martin should provide a little more fire power to UC Riverside's offense, but it likely won't matter going on the road against the league's most stout defensive team.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cal Poly 65, UC Riverside 61
02/09 10:39:14 ET