GAME NOTES: The UC Riverside Highlanders have lost three consecutive games, and have a tough challenge if they want to avoid their fourth straight as they travel to face the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos in Big West Conference action at the Thunderdome.
UC Riverside has dropped three in a row and four of its last five games, all in Big West play. The Highlanders are coming off a 70-52 defeat at the hands of UC Irvine Saturday. UC Riverside is 3-8 in conference play this season, and occupies the basement in the Big West.
UC Santa Barbara had a four-game win streak snapped Saturday against Cal State Northridge, 80-78, in overtime. Still, the Gauchos have won seven of their last nine games, and are 7-3 in Big West action this season - one game behind UC Irvine for the conference lead.
Santa Barbara has jumped way out ahead of Riverside early in the all-time series between the two programs, 27-7. The Highlanders, though, put up quite a fight in the last meeting between them earlier this season. UCSB won the game, 68-65, in overtime.
Riverside put up a decent fight against UC Irvine Saturday, trailing by just three points midway through the second half. The Anteaters eventually blew open the doors late in the half, and won by 18 points. Taylor Johns led the Highlanders in scoring with 12 points, grabbing 10 rebounds for the double- double. Johns added four blocked shots and two steals to his resume. Sam Finley came off the bench to score 11 points in the defeat. Riverside shot a dismal 28.6 percent from the floor in the game.
Chris Patton, who scored just six points in the loss to UC Irvine Saturday, leads the team with a 13.3 ppg average. Patton's 6 rpg mark and 18 blocked shots are both second to Johns, who leads the team with 8.2 rpg and 57 blocked shots. Johns checks in at second in scoring with 13.1 ppg, while Finley comes in at third with 11.9 ppg. Nick Gruninger tops the squad with 63 assists.
Cal State Northridge got some serious heroics from Stephen Maxwell Saturday night, as the forward hit a runner in the lane with less than half a second to play in overtime to give the Matadors the two-point victory over UCSB. Alan Williams once again led the Gauchos in scoring, netting 22 points with an impressive 17 rebounds, two steals and four blocked shots. Zalmico Harmon scored 21 points with eight assists, Taran Brown chipped in 12 with eight rebounds and Michael Bryson tallied 10 points.
Williams continues his dominant season, leading the team with 22.7 ppg on 55.4 percent shooting from the floor. The big man is still averaging a double- double on the year with 11.5 rpg, adding 2.5 bpg and 1.4 spg. Kyle Boswell is second with 11 ppg, and Bryson checks in at third with 10.9 ppg. Harmon leads the team in assists with a 5.1 apg average. The Gauchos as a unit are netting 73 ppg through 23 games played.
US Santa Barbara shot an uncharacteristic 36.9 percent from the floor in Saturday's overtime loss. That likely won't happen again, and with Williams continuing his dominance underneath the basket, the Gauchos will have the advantage.
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