DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 16, 8 p.m. (pt)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bren Events Center (4,984) -- Irvine, California. Television: FSN-PT. Home Record: Cal State Fullerton 5-5, UC Irvine 9-1. Away Record: Cal State Fullerton 5-7, UC Irvine 3-11. Neutral Record: Cal State Fullerton 2-0, UC Irvine 1-1. Conference Record: Cal State Fullerton 5-7, UC Irvine 7-6. Series Record: Cal State Fullerton leads, 52-43.
GAMES NOTES: The Titans are stumbling into this contest after being routed, 85-65, by conference-leading Long Beach State on Wednesday. The setback was the fourth in the last five games for the Titans, who are 12-12 overall, including a 5-7 mark against the Big West. That has the Titans seventh in the 10-team conference after the team went 12-4 and finished second in the league a year ago. Cal State Fullerton hosts Cal Poly in its next test.
As for UC Irvine it bounced back from a two-game slump with a hard fought 52-48 victory over UC Riverside on Wednesday night. The Anteaters also have as many wins as losses overall (13-13) but have had a bit more success in league play at 7-6. The Anteaters, who are 9-1 at home, sit in fifth in the league standings and will host Pacific next.
UC Irvine already collected a win against Cal State Fullerton this season with a 92-65 rout at Titan Gym on Jan. 17. The win was the second straight for the Anteaters, who upset the Titans in the Big West Conference Tournament a year ago. The Titans still lead the all-time series, 52-43.
It simply came down to which team was able to hit their shots between Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State. The Titans connected on just 35.3 percent from the field, while the 49ers managed a superior 51.5 percent effort.
Cal State Fullerton can still boast the conference's best offensive unit as the Titans rank at the top of the league in points (81.1 pg), assists (15.8 pg) and field-goal percentage (.480). Each of those marks is among the 25 best in the country. However the Titans don't play well defensively by letting in 76.7 points per game on 47.6 percent shooting, while ranking at the bottom of the Big West in rebounds (30.9 pg). The trio of D.J. Seeley (18.9 ppg, 4.0 apg), Kwame Vaughn (18.0 ppg, 4.0 apg) and Sammy Yeager (16.1 ppg) has kept the Titans competitive. In fact, Seeley and Vaughn are the highest scoring teammates in the Big West.
It was a brutal game on the offensive end for both teams in UC Irvine's win over UC Riverside. The Anteaters shot just 30.9 percent from the field in the contest but held the Highlanders to just 17 total field goals on a 29.8 field goal percentage.
Though a decent offensive team, UC Irvine cannot lay claim to the same type of production that the Titans can. The Anteaters are near the middle of the conference in scoring (68.1 ppg). However, the Anteaters hold teams to just 38.3 percent shooting, while ranking second in the conference in both assists (15.7 pg) and rebounds (39 pg). In fact the squad's assists and rebounding numbers are among the 30 best in the country. Daman Starring (13.2 ppg) is the only player on the team scoring in double figures, although five others are putting in at least seven points per game, led by Chris McNealy (9.3 ppg). Adam Folker (8.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and Will Davis II (7.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg) are the top contributors on the glass.
With their ability to move the ball so efficiently the Anteaters will expose the Titans' porous defense and be able to keep up with the high-octane offensive tempo Cal State Fullerton will try to employ.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UC Irvine 78, Cal State Fullerton 74