DATE & TIME: Wednesday, January 18th, 7:05 p.m. (pt)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Titan Gym (4,000) -- Fullerton, California. Television: None. Home Record: Riverside 5-2, Fullerton 6-1. Away Record: Riverside 4-4, Fullerton 3-4. Neutral Record: Riverside 1-2, Fullerton 1-1. Conference Record: Riverside 4-1, Fullerton 2-2. Series Record: Cal State Fullerton leads, 22-17.
GAME NOTES: UC Riverside made it four in a row last Saturday by getting the best of Cal Poly, 60-53, in front of a home crowd at the Student Rec Center. A sluggish start had the hosts' lead at 27-22 entering the break, but the Highlanders woke up in the second half and hit the necessary free throws down the stretch to come out on top. Standout senior Phil Martin struggled, going 4-of-13 from the field, but still managed to lead the club in scoring with 13 points. Kevin Bradshaw donated 11 points to the win. Riverside is off to its best start in Big West play in program history at 4-1, while its overall mark of 10-8 is the team's second-best showing since making the move to Division I.
Cal State Fullerton continued its recent slide last Saturday with a narrow 67-65 defeat at Cal State-Bakersfield -- the club's third consecutive defeat on the heels of a seven-game win streak. Issiah Grayson hit the game-winning jumper with 2.8 seconds to play for Bakersfield and Perry Webster's half-court shot at the buzzer fell short for the Titans, who shot just 38.5 percent from the field. Isiah Umipig led the way for Fullerton with 17 points, while Omondi Amoke netted 15 and grabbed a game-high eight boards.
The Titans hold a slim 22-17 advantage in the all-time series with last year's season series resulting in a pair of road wins for both clubs. Cal State Fullerton is 7-5 versus UC Riverside at Titan Gym.
Martin is the engine that fuels the Highlanders despite his lackluster performance the last time out. The 6-4 guard is second in the Big West in scoring at 17.6 points per game and leads UCR in rebounding as well with 5.5 per contest. While Kareem Nitoto and Robert Smith help buoy the offense with 10.2 and 9.4 ppg averages, respectively, the Highlanders remain the league's worst scoring team at 60.4 ppg. The defense helps balance things out by holding the opposition to 62.4 ppg on only 39.7 percent shooting -- marks good for second and first in the conference, respectively. The Highlanders are being outrebounded by less than one carom per contest on average.
The Titans are led by a pair of potent performers who were largely absent from the recent loss to Cal State-Bakersfield. D.J. Seeley had just nine points in the setback on 3-of-10 shooting but averages 15.1 ppg on the year. Meanwhile, the Titans' second-leading scorer, Kwame Vaughn, had just five points but usually drops in a healthy 14.7 ppg. Umipig and Amoke check in at 13.6 and 11.8 ppg, respectively, helping the Titans to the best scoring offense in the Big West at 77.3 ppg. Orane Chin furthers that impact by contributing 9.4 ppg, while four of the team's top five scorers pull down at least 4.6 boards per contest. Amoke leads that effort with 8.4 rpg with Fullerton sitting atop the conference with an average of 38.9 rpg. In addition, the high-flying Titans rank first in the Big West in field goal percentage (.476), scoring margin (plus-8.8) and three-point field goal percentage (.380). Umipig is among the league leaders in threes with 43 on 39.1 percent shooting, while Vaughn is first in assists at 4.0 per game.
Martin can't win games by himself all the time, and UC Riverside showed good resolve to come away with the win this past weekend when he struggled. The question will be how the Highlander defense holds up to the Big West's best scoring team, and in hostile territory no less. Fullerton is eager to get back in the win column after a promising start to the year and should dig deep enough to halt Riverside's record run.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cal State Fullerton 68, UC Riverside 64