Thursday, February 22, 2018

UCSB vs. UCI Game Preview, by Gaucho Freg

UCSB vs UC Irvine Preview
Thursday, February 22, 2018, 7:30pm PST
SoCal Gauchos attending the game, pre-game at the UCI Campus Anthill Pub

The race for first place is wide open as the visiting 9-3 Gauchos take on the best defense in the league in the second place, 9-4 Anteaters.
UCSB and UCI have played 89 times since 1968 with Santa Barbara leading the series 52-37. The Anteaters swept the season series last year, but the Gauchos won the first game this year in Santa Barbara, 70-58.

By the Numbers                                                              
OOC Record, all games 14-15 20-6
BWC Record 9-4 9-3
Home/away vs D1 4-4 (home) 8-5 (away)
 National Rankings
Composite 152 104
DC2              154 98
RPI 144 91
RPI SOS 108 281
Pomeroy              145 107
Massey 160 87
Sagarin 157 139
Preseason Poll Pick 1st 6th
Efficiency Rankings (Pomeroy)    
Offense 254 57
Defense 53 218
Scoring 70.2 (69.5) 77.2 (75.2)
PPG Allowed 67.5 (61.2) 70.2 (68.8)
Best win: Idaho (away, 119 DC2)
Worst Loss: UTRGV (away, 235 DC2)
Trend:  Irvine has won 6 of their last seven with the lone loss coming last Thursday at home by 1 to Hawaii. 

Head Coach:
Russell Turner is in his 8th season at the helm of the Anteaters and has an overall record of 153-120 (.560) an outstanding 81-46 (.637) record in the Big West.  His streak of consecutive 20+ win seasons (5) is in jeopardy this year.  In 2015 he led the Anteaters to their first NCAA tournament where they narrowly lost to Louisville in the first round.  In 2016 he led the Anteaters to 28 wins, best in school history.  He’s known for a fiery demeanor on the sideline and for having multiple 7 footers on his teams.
Irvine, is a young team that is starting to gel in conference play. After a rough out-of-conference against a very tough schedule, they have battled back and are contending for the BW title.  Their future looks very bright. From Beefeater; “Bench production for this team has been excellent, particularly from the post position with Jones and Greene. UCI's starters, including Rutherford, don't play excessive minutes because Turner plays at least four bench players 10+ minutes every game.” Stats listed below are for conference games only. 

Guard Eyassu Worku 6’2” 170 lbs, Sophomore. #24 Leads the team with assists, 3.8 pg and turnovers 2.5 pg.  Second in scoring with 12.5 ppg, not the highest percentage shooter, scores from inside and outside the arc and gets to the FT line often.  Still just 19 yo, his play has been inconsistent and is part of the reason why UCI turns the ball over 14.4 times per game, 292 in the country. “Maybe, the x-factor for UCI is Worku, because when he is efficient, the offense is better. “
Guard Evan Leonard  6’1”, 190 lb, Sophomore, #14 Has played himself into All BW consideration with his well-rounded game and accurate shooting.  Leads the team in scoring, 15.6 ppg and is second in three pointers made and in FT attempts.  Fourth in the conference in steals.
Wing John Edgar Jr.  6’5”, 217 lb, Sophomore #11 Has played himself into a starting role and is scoring 8.0  ppg and pulling 5.6 rebounds per game.  Scored a career high 21 against Cal Poly Saturday.
Forward Tommy Rutherford  6’8”, 220 lb, Sophomore. #42  This hard working forward is second on the team in rebounding with 6.1 pg and turns the ball over a lot for a forward, about two per game. He gets to the line the most on the team makes them at a 67% clip.  He’s averaging 10.9 ppg. My personal choice for BW Hustle POY.
Forward/Center Jonathan Galloway  6’10”, 235 lb, Junior #5 While not a scoring threat, Galloway is a terrific defender and rebounder, 7.6 rpg. 

Key Reserves:
Guard Max Hazzard   5’10”, 170 lb.  RS Sophomore. #02 An accurate 3 point shooter, .389 from beyond the arc, he is fourth in scoring with 8.3 ppg and third in assists and is playing starter minutes at 23 mpg. “Has been in a two week slump, but he's capable of scoring double digits off the bench any given night.” 
Forward Elston Jones  6’9”, 275 lb RS Junior #50   A big body off the bench, he averages 5.6 rbg and 4.6 ppg in 16 minutes of play
Center Brad Greene  6’10”, 320 lb Sophomore. #55 The girthy center averages 4.5 ppg and 3.9 rpg in 12 minutes of play.
Wing Brandon Smith  6’5”, 195 lb Junior #13  Averages 13 mpg and has started 7 games.  He has attempted 21 three pointers and made just one.

View from an Irvine Fan:
--Thanks and credit to Beefeater.  This is an update from his preview provided before the first game.  That preview available here: ucsb-vs-uc-irvine-t21760.html

The re-match comes about a month after the initial match. UCI has improved from January, winning six out of seven games. The defense has been solid and consistent, with the exception of the first half of the Hawaii game, ultimately resulting in a one point loss. The offense is still inconsistent, but it has shown some progress. Ball movement is better, turnovers are down a bit and shot selection is slightly better. The guards still are prone to being impatient, but they are playing with more maturity than they displayed at the beginning of the season. Leonard and Rutherford have emerged as the leading scorers for the team. Maybe, the x-factor for UCI is Worku, because when he is efficient, the offense is better. 

There still hasn't been a significant improvement in Galloway's offensive production and Smith has lost his confidence in his shot. So, that hasn't changed much from a month ago. Wertner has returned from injury and is getting bits of playing time. The small forward position has been taken over by Edgar Jr. who is coming off a career high 21 points against Cal Poly.

The best stats for UCI are the team defensive stats:

61.2 ppg
37.7 FG%
27.2 3pt%
+9.8 rpg margin

UCI ranks #1 in BWC in all those categories and UCI's Pomeroy defensive efficiency ranking is #53, also best in BWC. Now, for the re-match, the rebounding is very likely going to be a point of emphasis for both teams. UCSB outrebounded UCI 43-30 and that was the worst rebounding performance of the season for UCI (and maybe the best for UCSB). Of all the factors that led to the loss at UCSB, I suspect Turner will most want to correct the rebounding disparity. If Canty doesn't play, that probably will make it harder for UCSB to repeat it. 

First Game Recap:
After the teams battled back & forth for much of the game, UCSB used a late 12-0 run to pull away and eventually win by 12. The star that game was Jalen Canty who had a double-double with 20 points and 11 boards.  King added 14 boards to help the Gauchos out rebound UCI 42-30.  Defensively, the Gauchos kept UCI in check with only Tommy Rutherford able to score consistently, 17 points on 7-10 shooting.   Most impressively for the Gaucho defense, or perhaps a little lucky too, Irvine’s leading scorer Evan Leonard went just 1-10 from the field scoring only 4 points.
UCI led by 1 at the half and the score was tied at 47 with just a little over 6 minutes to play until UCSB went on its big run to pull away.  Gabe Vincent had a big game scoring 21 points to lead all scorers, including 7-8 from the line.  

Match-up & prediction:
Coming off their worst offensive performance of the season against the #2 defensive team in the conference in UC Davis, the going gets even tougher in facing the league’s top defensive team on the road. UCI is allowing ~ 8 fewer points per game than UCSB is. It seems likely the Gauchos won’t have Canty this time around so it applies great pressure on King, Ami and Blackmon to step up and fill the void.  King looked tired and had a bad game against Davis.  If he struggles again against this tough Irvine defense, UCSB will be in trouble.  If we see the King we saw at Davis and at Long Beach, we'll be in for a great game.

Keys to the game for the Gauchos
·         Be strong in the paint again. A difficult task without Canty.  While the Gauchos out-rebounded UCI in the first game, offensive production was similar for points in the paint.
·         While not at the same level of TJ Shorts, Worku and Hazzard are good, quick point guards and the Gauchos need to stop the penetration and not give up so many lay-ups as they did against Davis.
·         King needs the type of performance he had against Davis (1st game), CSUN and Long Beach in Canty’s absence. We need him to be able to get his game going to open of the perimeter for Gabe, Max and Marcus. Against Davis, he seemed to rest out on the perimeter all too often, settling for three pointers which, when his inside game isn’t working, rarely find their mark.
·         Defend Leonard.  Can’t expect another 1-10 performance out of this great player.
·         Gabe’s Dad says, “Defense!   Defense, Gauchos, Defense!!”

Prediction:  I had this penciled in for a loss even before Canty’s suspension.  Not looking like he’ll be back yet and with the improvement by Irvine’s sophomores and their defense, I don’t think we’ll get it going this game.  I expect a reverse of the last game, competitive for a while but King tires in the second half and UCI pulls away.  UCI 71 UCSB 64

Official Site:
Hey Guys! ... etball-f7/
How to Watch: ... -uc-irvine
For TV viewers, game will be on Prime Ticket/Fox Sports West. 
Pre-Game Meeting: For those Gauchos planning to see the game in person, some Gauchos will pre-meet at the Anthill Pub,  It is a "White-Out" game for Irvine and on TV so don't wear white! 

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