Thursday, February 14, 2019

UCSB VS. UCR Game Preview, by Gaucho Freg

UCSB @ UC Riverside Preview, Game 2
Thursday, February 14, 2019, 7 PM PST
***edited to add view from a Highlander fan***
Both teams are looking for a rebound on Valentines Day.  The Gauchos are coming off an unexpected loss to UC Davis as last year’s MVP TJ Shorts broke Gaucho hearts in the Thunderdome for the second year in a row.  Riverside, after consecutive wins over Hawaii & Poly, has been rejected four times in a row, including a 26 point home loss to Poly.

By the Numbers                                                             
 Quad 4 Game
UCR logo.png
UCSB logo small.png
Record 8-17 17-6
Home/Away 3-5 (H) 5-4 (A)
Big West Conference 2-7 6-3
Composite National Rankings
DCI 1&2, BPI, KP, Massey, NET, RPI, Sagarin 319 143
NET 316 149
SOS (NET) 314 331
Efficiency Rankings (Pomeroy) 
Offense 261 126
Defense 343 198
Scoring 66.0  /  65.7 74.0  / 68.0
FG% 44.2  /  44.3 45.7  /  42.0
3Pt % 36.9  /  38.6 34.5  /  34.3
FT% 70.5  /  70.4 70.5  /  69.1
PPG Allowed 68.9  /  73.4   64.1  /  63.9
FG % Defense 46.8  /  49.8 41.0  /  44.1.
3Pt % Defense 36.1  /  44.4  27.9  /  27.5
Rebounding Margin  +1.2 /  +3.4 +7.8  /  +4.8
Best win (NET):  vs. LMU (144)
Worst Loss (NET):  vs. Cal Poly (332)

UCR-UCSB History, Game One Recap
This will be the 45th meeting between the schools with the Gauchos holding a commanding 35-9 advantage.  With their win in January, UCSB has won four straight in the series.  In that game, the Highlanders held a surprising 34-32 lead at half time, with Dikembye Martin torching the Gauchos for 12 on 2-4 from three and the Highlanders outrebounding the Gauchos by 4.  UCSB put the clamps on Martin in the second half, limiting him to 4 points.  In the second half it was the Devearl Ramsey show who scored 16 in the half on 5-6 shooting leading the Gauchos to a 72-64 victory.  Sow also had a great game with 20 points and 9 boards.  The Highlanders dominated the boards though, 37 to 27 and Ajani Kennedy had 19 points.
Head Coach:  David Patrick is in his first season as head coach and in his first season leading a program anywhere.  He is most famous for recruiting Ben Simmons while at LSU.  He is doing a good job of bringing in some better talent to Riverside so we could see their program improve.

The Highlanders are now starting just one upperclassman and four underclassmen as Patrick seems to be looking to build this team for the future. Their primary reserves are underclassmen plus former starter, Center Menno Djikstra. Comments from Highlander’s fan, Blocked Freethrow, in italics.

Probable Starters
Guard Dikembye Martin  #15  6’1”, 170 lb. Junior 15.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.8 apg, 32 mpg 
Riverside’s best player and an All-Big West candidate.  Leads team in getting to the line, 84%
on 2.7 attempts per game.  Second in 3pt makes on 43%, 1 behind Elkaz. 
Martin has carried the team offensively, but because he garners so much attention from opposing defenses, he has become less efficient as the season has progressed.  Without a reliable second option, he is going to have to continue carrying this team.  Good news is, he is well on pace to become UCR’s career leader in scoring and assists
Guard Dominic Pickett  #22  6’3”, 210 lb. RS Sophomore 4.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.4 apg, 23 mpg   Third in
assists on the team.
The team’s recent slide isn’t his fault, but he also isn’t playing outstanding ball that can help the team win.  But what more can you realistically expect from the former team manager?
Wing Dragan Elkaz   #0  6’5”, 205lb Freshman  8.0 ppg, 28 mpg.   Leads team in 3 point shooting, 44%
from deep.
Elkaz carried the team to a victory over Hawaii with an incredible shooting performance, but he has all but disappeared in the team’s recent 4-game slide.  He needs to get more shots.
Forward Zac Watson  #11  6’7”, 210 lb, Freshman 6.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg  21 mpg.   Had a great game last
time out (vs CSF), 13 point on 6-7 shooting and 7 boards.
Watson had been replaced in the starting lineup by Ajani Kennedy, but he has earned back his spot after some subpar performances from AK.  Watson is the better defender of the two, and is a bit more consistent.
Center Callum McRae  #25  7’0”, 270 lb, Freshman 6.3 ppg (54% from the field), 4.0 rpg  16 mpg. 49
turnovers on the season.
McRae replaced Dijkstra in the starting lineup, and promptly rewarded Coach Patrick for the decision.  Following the last game against UCSB, he strung together 5 straight double-digit scoring efforts.  He’s given UCR a back-to-the-basket scoring option when the outside shots aren’t falling.  He needs more touches for this offense to put points on the board, but he has struggled mightily on defense.

Key Reserves
Center Menno Dijkstra  #32  7’0”, 235 lb, Senior 7.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg  21 mpg. He has attempted 54 threes,
making 14 of them.  Leads team with 14 blocks.  Former starter, moved to the bench as Patrick goes youth movement
Dijkstra is still providing mediocre offense and defense… at least he is consistent.
Forward Ajani Kennedy #10  6’8”, 200 lb Sophomore 7.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 21 mpg  Plays starter minutes
and leads team in rebounding & three point %, 26/56.
Outside of a 15 point, 9 rebound performance in a win against Cal Poly, Kennedy’s play has been abysmal.  He seems uninterested on offense without the ball in his hands, and his defense has been laughable at times.  The coaches need to figure out how to get him engaged and ready to play..
Guard Jordan Gilliam  #2  6’5”, 160 lb. Sophomore 7.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.8 apg, 21 mpg Was a starter
early in the season. Second assists. Shooting .342 from the field, .310 from deep.  Scored 15
with 6 boards vs Davis two games ago.
The JUCO transfer struggled mightily early in the season but has played far better as of late.  Gilliam is a gifted passer with good vision, and has been the only guard on the roster other than Martin that had demonstrated any ability to get to the rim.  Unfortunately though, because of his lack of strength, he can’t seem to finish when he gets there.  He is very long and is the Highlanders’ best on-ball defender.  Hopefully he can pack on some pounds this offseason to become a more effective player.
Guard DJ McDonald  #3  5’11”, 175 lb. Freshman 13 mpg
McDonald is another beneficiary of the Rwahwire transfer, and has been getting spot minutes since entering the second half of OCC play.  He’s a solid outside shooter and a pesky on-ball defender that likes to pick up full court.  In some ways, he reminds me of Martin his freshman season, so it’ll be interesting to see how he develops.
View from a Highlander FanThanks and credit to Blocked Freethrow for his second Highlander overview:
UCR looked to be putting things together with a win against Hawaii and a blow out of Cal Poly on the road but has followed that up with an absolutely putrid string of 4 consecutive losses, 3 of them at home.  The Highlanders aren’t getting it done on either side of the ball: they are only scoring 58.5 points on 39% shooting while allowing 78.5 points on 52% shooting during this losing streak.  UCR’s stellar outside shooting has taken a slight dip, but alarmingly, opponents are having a field day from outside, as they are allowing a Big West worst 44% from beyond the arc. 

The coaching staff has made a few changes to the starting lineup and rotation, but I think they have their hands full with this young team.  This 4 game home stand was a chance to separate from Cal Poly and perhaps even climb the standings, but this team has regressed to the point that it can only put together 10 consistent, productive minutes per game.  The race for 8th is a tight one, and it’s hard to envision this team having any success in the Honda Center, even if they do make the cut.
Prediction:  The Highlanders were able to stay close for most of the game in the Thunderdome before a late Gaucho run sealed it, but I anticipate a blowout this time around.  This team isn’t mentally or physically prepared for the rigors of conference play.  Should be an easy double-digit victory for UCSB.  81-62
Match-up overview:  Much has been said about the Gaucho defense and how it needs to be more consistent but in the Davis game, it was their offense that let them down, scoring only 57 points against a team giving up 70 a game in conference play.  Riverside presents a perfect opportunity to get healthy, they rate 343 in the country in defense (KenPom) and BW teams are shooting 50% (!) from the field against them.  Most importantly, the Highlanders don’t have TJ Shorts. 

Keys to the game for the Gauchos
·       Gaucho inside game:  Sow had one of his best games vs the Highlanders the first time around.  Teams are starting to double-team him and he’s still struggling with that. UCR won’t be as good as Davis doing this so he should do better and maybe even get an assist or two. 
·       Finding offensive rhythm with the new lineup.  The team’s efficiency ratings and scoring output have dropped slightly since he’s come back.  Not blaming Max, I just think the team is still sorting it out. Production from Davis, JRoq, Ramsey, Nagle and Toure have all dipped since Max returned to the starting lineup.  Now much, if not all of that is more shots going through him but the net production is down. This despite Max’s insane numbers of 40 assists vs. just 8 TOs. 
·       Containing Martin. I don’t recall what the Gauchos did differently in the second half last time but I imagine they will have that approach from the start.
·       Davis and Blackmon on the wing/forward position vs. Elkaz, Watson & Kennedy.  After Martin, this position generates most offense for the Highlanders.

Prediction:  The Gauchos have done well on the road in conference play, 3-1.  Their offense gets healthy against the Highlander porous defense Gauchos 77 Highlanders 63.

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