GAME NOTES: The UC Irvine Anteaters will try to extend a five-game win streak as they host the Cal State Northridge Matadors in Big West Conference action at the Bren Events Center.
Cal State Northridge has lost two games in a row - both in Big West play - and four of its last six games, including a 79-69 setback against UC Santa Barbara on Saturday.
UC Irvine has taken control of the Big West Conference with a 3-0 start in league play. The three wins are the three most recent in the team's five-game win streak, which includes a 72-54 win over Cal State Fullerton last Thursday.
UC Irvine leads the all-time series between the two programs, 27-23. The Anteaters and Matadors will clash once more during the regular season on Feb. 22 at Cal State Northridge.
Cal State Northridge shot just 37 percent from the floor in the team's loss to UC Santa Barbara Saturday, which dropped the Matadors to an even 2-2 in Big West play. Josh Greene led all scorers in the game with 27 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the floor, adding a perfect 12-of-12 from the free-throw line. Both Stephen Maxwell and Stephan Hicks notched double-doubles for the Matadors, as Maxwell netted 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while Hicks tallied 10 points and 10 boards. Northridge hit an impressive 25 shots from the charity stripe, going 25-of-32 from the line.
Maxwell, Hicks and Greene are the three top scorers for the Matadors this season. Maxwell leads the roster at 17.1 ppg and a team-best 8.4 rpg. Hicks isn't too far behind in either category, with a 16.6 ppg average and a 7.2 rpg clip. Greene, the third and final player averaging scoring numbers in the double digits, nets 15.6 ppg. Northridge averages 74.6 ppg this season through 19 contests.
UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton were tied 15-15 in the first half of their matchup before the Anteaters went on a 22-6 run in the final 8:30 of the frame. UC Irvine went into the locker room with a 37-21 lead, which they would not give up the rest of the way. Chris McNealy led the Anteaters with 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor. Will Davis II chipped in 11 points and eight rebounds, while Mamadou Ndiaye contributed 10 points. UC Irvine shot an even 50 percent from the field.
McNealy leads the team in scoring this season with 12.3 ppg on 45.3 percent shooting from the floor. Davis is second and right behind McNealy with 12.1 ppg, and tops the team with a 7.4 rpg average. Luke Nelson is the third and final double-digit corer for the Anteaters at 11.2 ppg. UC Irvine as a unit averages 74.8 ppg and gives up just 66.8 ppg to its opposition.
Trying to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the conference, the Anteaters will be looking to take control early against the Matadors on their home court. With strong defensive play, UC Irvine should come out on top.
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