Men's Basketball Preview: UC Irvine vs. Cal State Northridge

UC Irvine Pregame

Vs. Cal State Northridge

Thursday at Bren Events Center, 7 p.m.

The host Anteaters (12-7, 3-0 in the Big West Conference) are unbeaten in five January games and share the Big West lead with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo coming in.

The Matadors, under first-year coach Reggie Theus, a former NBA standout, are 10-9, 2-2.

UCI, which has won seven of its last nine, has the best record after 19 games since the 2002-03 Anteaters accomplished the feat. The 'Eaters' 3-0 start in conference is the best since the 2005-06 squad opened 8-0 against Big West foes.

Senior guard Chris McNealy leads UCI in scoring (12.3 per game) and is averaging 15.7 points in conference play.

Through Sunday, UCI ranked No. 9 in the nation with 17.1 assists per game and No. 17 with 6.2 blocked shots per contest.

Mamadou Ndiaye, a 7-foot-6 freshman, ranks No. 9 in total blocks (59). Ndiaye averages 8.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.

Junior Will Davis averages 12.1 points and a team-best 7.4 rebounds per game, while freshman Luke Nelson (11.3 ppg) and sophomore Alex Young (9.3 ppg and a team-best 4.4 assists per outing) round out a balanced starting five.

Northridge is led by junior forward Stephen Maxwell (17.1 ppg and 8.4 rpg), while junior guard Stephan Hicks chips in 16.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per contest.

The Matadors lead the conference in steals per game (7.2) and free-throw percentage (.778).

— Barry Faulkner

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