UC Irvine Attempts To Lock Down Tourney No. 1 Seed
Weekly Release No. 17
UC Irvine Can Clinch No. 1 Seed With Win
Heading down the home stretch of Big West play, UC Irvine is in great shape as far as locking down the No. 1 seed in next month’s Big West Tournament at Honda Center. The ‘Eaters (11-1) are 2.5 games up on second place Cal State Fullerton with three to play. UCI could clinch the No. 1 tourney seed as early as this Thursday, needing a win at UC Davis or a CSF loss to Cal Poly. A UCI win and CSF loss also would clinch the outright regular season crown for the ‘Eaters.
Nine Straight Best In Turner Era
UCI’s nine game win streak is the longest in the Russell Turner era, and the longest by any ‘Eater squad since the 2000-01 team reeled off 13 in a row.
Big West Road Streak At 10
UCI won all four games on its homestand, returning to the road for the first time since Feb. 2 when it plays UC Davis at the Pavilion. The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU. The ‘Eaters will try to extend their school record Big West road winning streak, which sits at 10 straight. UCI is 10-2 in road games this season. UCI is one of six teams nationally with 10 or more road wins this season.
Gauchos Hunting For 20
UC Santa Barbara responded to a three-game losing streak with a pair of commanding double-digit wins last week over Hawai‘i and Cal State Fullerton – two squads the Gauchos are jockeying with for tournament seeding position. UCSB crept to within one win of attaining its second straight 20-win campaign under Joe Pasternack. The Gauchos (19-8) can hit that mark with a win at home Thursday against Long Beach State. UCSB tied the program single-season record with 23 wins in 2017-18.
Despite Thursday’s loss at UCSB, Cal State Fullerton has still won nine of its last 11 games in Big West play after an ominous 0-2 start. The Titans (9-4) are on track to record their third straight 10-win Big West campaign, needing a win Thursday against Cal Poly to meet that goal.
Four schools have clinched spots in this year’s Big West Tournament at Honda Center (March 14-16) - UCI, CSF, UCSB and UH. The five remaining schools have yet to lock up a berth. It’s unlikely, but there is a scenario in which UC Davis, CSUN, Long Beach State, UC Riverside and Cal Poly could finish in a five-way tie for fifth place at 6-6.
Diane Top 10 In Big West Field Goal Attempts
CSUN redshirt freshman Lamine Diane is making an impact on the record books. The forward has taken 559 field goal attempts, which ties him for fifth in Big West single-season history with UNLV’s Freddie Banks (1985-86). Banks is also No. 4 on the list with 590 attempts during the 1986-87 season. Only two players have taken 600 or more shots in a season – Raymond Lewis of Cal State Los Angeles (693) and Cal State Fullerton’s Josh Akognon (618).
PRIOR TO TIPOFF
UC RIVERSIDE AT CSUN (BIGWEST.TV) - CSUN won the first meeting by one point in the Big West opener for both teams on Jan. 9. CSUN snapped a four-game losing streak in Saturday’s win against UC Davis. The Matadors made 10 threes to tie for their second-highest total in a game this season. CSUN freshman Lamine Diane is tied for No. 10 in Big West single-season history in made field goals (272) with UC Irvine’s Kevin Magee (1981-82). UC Riverside needs to make 10 more three-point baskets to tie the school’s Division I single-season record of 252 set in 2015-16.
CAL POLY AT CAL STATE FULLERTON (ESPN3) - Cal Poly snapped a five-game skid in resounding fashion with season highs in total points (88), field goal percentage (.533), three-point percentage (.583) and total three-pointers (14) against Hawai‘i on Saturday. In Cal Poly’s two Big West wins, the team has shot 26-of-46 (56.5%). Cal State Fullerton seniors Khalil Ahmad (1,631 points) and Kyle Allman, Jr. (1,567) are ranked No. 4 and 5 on the school’s career scoring list. PxP: Tim Becwar • ANALYST: Bill Herenda • SIDELINE: Olivia Phelps
LONG BEACH STATE AT UC SANTA BARBARA (BIGWEST.TV) - UC Santa Barbara junior Max Heidegger is 18 points away from becoming the 29th player in school history to reach 1,000 for his career. Amadou Sow ranks No. 5 on the UCSB freshman list with 314 points and 170 rebounds this season. In Long Beach State’s two wins last week, the team pulled down 38 offensive rebounds, leading to a combined 37-14 edge in second chance points.
UC IRVINE AT UC DAVIS (ESPNU) - UC Davis is 17-3 at home against Big West opponents since the 2016-17 season. The Aggies play their first of four straight at the Pavilion to close out the regular season. UC Irvine shot a season-best 55.8% (29-of-52) against Cal Poly in its last outing, and is 8-0 this season when shooting 50 percent or better. The ‘Eater bench has outscored its opponent 10 times in 12 Big West contests. PxP: Sam Farber • ANALYST: Caron Butler