GAME NOTES: With three games remaining on the regular season schedule in the Big West Conference, the UC Irvine Anteaters will try to create some separation between themselves and the rest of the conference competition. They'll host the Cal Poly Mustangs in a conference showdown at Bren Events Center on Saturday.
Cal Poly has lost three of its past four games and seven of its last nine contests altogether. The Mustangs have fallen to 6-8 in the Big West standings, and are coming off an 85-73 defeat at the hands of UC Davis on Thursday.
UC Irvine leads the Big West Conference by one game, and will try to close out the season on a high note with matchups against three of the bottom four teams record-wise in the conference. The Anteaters have won six of their last seven games, including a 71-60 triumph over UC Santa Barbara on Thursday.
UC Irvine holds the all-time series lead over Cal Poly, 23-20. The lead was extended to three games after the Anteaters took a 64-50 decision back on Feb. 1 in San Luis Obispo.
UC Davis established its stranglehold on Cal Poly early on in Thursday night's matchup, leading the Mustangs at the end of the first half, 37-25. The Aggies were able to set themselves on cruise throughout the second half en route to the 12-point win. Chris Eversley tallied a double-double for the Mustangs in the loss, notching 17 points and 10 rebounds. Maliik Love netted 10 points in the contest, and Jamal Johnson dished out a team-high six assists for Cal poly. Dave Nwaba added 12 points and Reese Morgan chipped in 10 off the bench.
Eversley leads the team in scoring this season with a 13.8 ppg average, but rounds out his play with solid stats across the board. Eversley leads the team with 7.5 rpg, and adds 46 assists and 37 steals on the year. Nwaba checks in at second in scoring with 11.6 ppg and records 4.6 rpg. Johnson leads the Mustangs with 78 assists on the season, and Joel Awich has recorded a team- high 30 blocked shots.
UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara battled to a close first-half score, with the Anteaters leading at the half, 29-27. But in the second period, the Anteaters opened things up offensively, and netted 58.3 percent of their shot attempts that helped UC Irvine attain the 11-point victory. Chris McNealy scored 17 points to pace UC Irvine, but Will Davis II added 14 points with eight rebounds, and Luke Nelson chipped in with 13 points. Mamadou Ndiaye rounded out the double-digit scorers for the Anteaters, netting 10 with six rebounds before fouling out.
Nelson continues to lead UC Irvine in scoring with a 12.3 ppg average on 41.5 percent shooting from the field. McNealy isn't too far behind in the scoring category with 11.8 ppg, and Davis II checks in with 10.4 ppg. Davis leads the Anteaters with 6.4 rpg, and Alex Young tops the squad with 136 assists on the year. UC Irvine prides itself on playing strong scoring defense, holding its opponents to just 66.2 ppg.
Cal Poly has really struggled on the road this season, and UC Irvine is one of the stronger home teams in the Big West. The Mustangs, averaging just 64 ppg this season, will have a very hard time keeping pace with the Anteaters' rapid scoring.
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