UC Irvine Pregame
Vs. UC Davis
Saturday, 4:30 p.m. at Bren Events Center
The UC Irvine men's basketball team can clinch the outright Big West Conference championship with a win over the last-place Aggies, who were eliminated from the eight-team conference tournament on Thursday.
UCI (21-10, 12-3 in conference) is one game ahead of UC Santa Barbara entering the final game of the regular season. A UCI win would give the program its first outright conference regular-season title since 2001. Coach Russell Turner's Anteaters clinched at least a share of the school's first crown since 2002 with a win Thursday at Cal State Fullerton.
If UCI and UCSB wind up sharing the title, UCI would get the No. 2 seed for the Big West tournament that begins on Thursday at Honda Center.
Chris McNealy, the lone senior on the UCI roster, will be honored prior to tipoff Saturday. McNealy, averaging 11.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game this season and has just two turnovers in the last three games (81 minutes). McNealy has 1,177 points (18th in UCI annals) and 508 rebounds (No. 17 at UCI). He is only the 17th player in UCI history to record at least 1,000 points and 500 rebounds.
McNealy's 128 career three-pointers rank No. 11, his 99 steals rank No. 12 and his 274 assists rank No. 13 in UCI annals. He joins Jerry Green as one of two players to rank in UCI's top 20 in career points, rebounds, three-point field goals, assists and steals.
UCI, ranked No. 14 in the CollegeInsider.com mid-major poll, is led in scoring by freshman Luke Nelson (11.9 per game), followed by McNealy, Will Davis (10.6), Alex Young (9.1) and 7-foot-6 freshman Mamadou Ndiaye (8.2).
Ndiaye is seventh in the nation with 92 blocked shots, a school single-season record. He needs three blocks to match the Big West record set by Michael Olowokandi in the 1997-98 season.
The Aggies (9-21, 4-11) were defeated, 61-59, by UCI on Feb. 8.
UCI, which has won three straight and eight of its last nine, is 6-1 in conference home games this season.
— Barry Faulkner