Men's Basketball Preview: UC Irvine vs. Long Beach State

UCI Pregame

Vs. Long Beach State

Thursday, 8 p.m. at Walter Pyramid

The 93rd meeting between the two neighboring rivals is the Big West Conference opener for both. Long Beach State (4-10) holds a 57-35 advantage in the series, including five straight wins at the Pyramid.

But UCI (9-7) has won the last two games against the 49ers, including a 67-60 upset in last year's Big West Tournament semifinals.

Though Monday, UCI was leading the nation in total assists (282) and was fifth in team blocks (104). Mamadou Ndiaye, a 7-foot-6 freshman center, ranks fifth nationally with 55 blocks. He is also averaging 9.1 points and 5.6 rebounds and is 28 for 32 from the field (87.5%) in the last six games.

UCI is also led by 6-8 junior Will Davis (12.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per game), senior guard Chris McNealy (11.6 points per game), freshman guard Luke Nelson (11.6 ppg) and sophomore guard Alex Young (9.9 ppg).

The Anteaters are shooting 49% from the field for the season and are 7-2 when they shoot at least 50% from the field.

The nine nonconference wins are the most for the Anteaters since the 2000-01 team went 9-2 outside of conference on its way to a 25-5 record.

Long Beach State, under seventh-year coach Dan Monson, have won the last three conference regular-season titles. It has won three of the last four, including a home win over USC and a road conquest of Nevada.

Junior guard Tyler Lamb is averaging 20.8 points in four games since transferring from UCLA and junior guard Mike Caffey, a first-team all-conference performer last season, is averaging 16.7 ppg.

Senior forward Dan Jennings is contributing 11.2 points and 7.9 rebounds per game for the 49ers, who have sustained losses this season to Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina State, Kansas State, Creighton, VCU and Washington.

— Barry Faulkner

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