GAME NOTES: The UC Irvine Anteaters have won three games in a row, and will look to build on that streak as they host the UC Riverside Highlanders in a Big West Conference tilt at Bren Events Center.
UC Riverside has lost two consecutive games, and three of its last four. The Highlanders dropped an 87-76 decision to Hawaii Thursday night and fell to 3-7 in the conference standings.
UC Irvine is tied atop the Big West standings with UC Santa Barbara at 7-2. The Anteaters narrowly defeated UC Davis last Saturday on the road, 61-59, in their most recent outing.
UC Irvine leads the all-time series with UC Riverside, 31-23. The two teams met earlier this season, which resulted in a 72-52 blowout win for the Anteaters.
Earlier in the year, Hawaii hung a 31-point defeat on UC Riverside, and was able to take another double-digit decision Thursday night at the Riverside campus. Chris Patton scored 21 points to lead the Highlanders in the contest, but it wasn't enough. Taylor Johns netted 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and Steven Thornton chipped in with 16 points in the defeat. UC Riverside shot 42.2 percent from the floor in the contest.
Patton has really come on strong for UC Riverside this season, as the big man now leads the team in scoring with a 13.6 ppg average on 52.9 percent shooting from the floor. Johns is second in scoring right behind Patton with 13.2 ppg, and an even better 56.4 percent shooting mark. Johns tops the squad in rebounding as well with 8.2 rpg and a team-high 53 blocked shots. Sam Finley rounds out the double-digit scorers with 11.9 ppg this season.
UC Davis pulled ahead by four points, 30-26, at the half against UC Irvine, but the Aggies couldn't hold on for the victory. Both Chris McNealy and Dominique Dunning netted 11 points to pace the Anteaters in the win, while Mamadou Ndiaye and Aaron Wright each chipped in 10 points. UC Irvine shot an impressive 53.1 percent in the contest.
Luke Nelson, who was held to six points in the win over UC Davis, leads the team in scoring this season with a 12.5 ppg average. McNealy is second with 11.7 ppg, and Will Davis II is third at 10.7 ppg. Davis tops the squad with a 6.5 rpg mark, and Alex Young leads the team with 112 assists on the year. UC Irvine is averaging an even 73 ppg through 25 games played.
The Anteaters have built a successful season on playing strong defense (allowing opponents to score just 66.9 ppg), with a combination of strong scorers like Nelson and McNealy. UC Riverside has some pieces, but hasn't been able to find consistent effort this season.
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