FACTS & STATS: Site: Titan Gym (4,000) -- Fullerton, California. Television: None. Home Record: UCI 6-5, Fullerton 9-1. Away Record: UCI 3-7, Fullerton 5-5. Neutral Record: UCI 0-2, Fullerton 1-1. Conference Record: UCI 5-5, Fullerton 7-3. Series Record: Cal State Fullerton leads, 51-42.
GAME NOTES: UC Irvine has lost 14 of its 23 games overall but has found some success in conference play, going 5-5 to this point, which has it in a tie for fifth place in the standings. The Anteaters had won three in a row before falling in a 72-64 final to Pacific last Saturday.
After losing three in a row earlier in the month, Fullerton has been red hot, winning three straight and five of its last six overall. The Titans took care of business against UC Santa Barbara on Saturday (99-86) to move to 7-3 in conference, but they are still three games behind undefeated (in BWC play) Long Beach State for first place in the standings.
Fullerton leads the all-time series, 51-42. The Titans have won four of the last five meetings between the two teams, including a 92-84 triumph on January 21 in Irvine.
UC Irvine's offense fell flat in last Saturday's loss to Pacific, shooting just 36.8 percent from the floor and connecting on 6-of-35 three-point attempts. The high number of long-range tries was no surprise as the Anteaters rank first in the conference in three-pointers attempted (513) and second in three-pointers made (178), but usually they make them at a steadier 34.7 percent rate. Michael Wilder led five teammates in double figures with 12 points, and with two three-pointers moved into ninth place in school history in career triples (130). Wilder and Daman Starring share the team lead in scoring with 11.6 ppg. Starring has 16 double-digit scoring efforts this season and went for a career-high 23 points and six assists in the last game against Fullerton. While neither Wilder or Starring lights it up from the floor, they are solid threats from the outside, combining for four three- pointers per game at better than 37 percent apiece.
Fullerton continued its solid season with its best offensive effort in a Big West game this year in last Saturday's win over UCSB. The Titans shot 52.5 percent from the field and connected on a school-record 17 three-pointers in the 99-point outburst. Though the effort was certainly impressive, it was no surprise for the conference's best offense, which ranks first in scoring (77.9 ppg), field goal percentage (.486), three-pointers made (188) and three-point FG percentage (.413). Kwame Vaughn scored 37 points and Isiah Umipig added 25 in the win, and the two combined for 12 of the Titan's 17 treys. Fullerton possess a balanced scoring attack led by D.J. Seeley (16.5 ppg) and Vaughn (16.2 ppg, 4.2 apg), both of whom are in the top five scorers in the conference. Umipig (13 ppg), Omondi Amoke (12.2 ppg, 8.8 rpg), and Orane Chin (9.1 ppg) round out a unit that has started all but two games together this season.
This is sure to be an exciting game filled with plenty of action from beyond the arc, but Fullerton's prolific attack will likely be too difficult to stop at Titan Gym, where it has lost just once this season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cal State Fullerton 88, UC Irvine 76