Men's Basketball Preview: UC Irvine vs. UC Santa Barbara

UC Irvine Pregame

Vs. UC Santa Barbara

Thursday at 7 at UCSB

The UC Irvine men's basketball team enters Thursday's road date alone atop the Big West Conference standings and ranked No. 18 in the mid-major poll, one spot ahead of UC Santa Barbara.

The Anteaters (13-8, 4-1 in conference) and one-half game ahead of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (which they visit on Saturday) and one game ahead of UCSB, which is tied for third place with Hawaii.

Hawaii ended UCI's six-game winning streak with a 90-86 overtime triumph on Saturday at the Bren Events Center and UCI now embarks on a stretch of three road games in its next four. Five of the next seven UCI games will be on the road.

Entering the week, UCI ranked No. 7 nationally in blocked shots per game (6.7), ninth in assists per game (17), 20th in field-goal percentage (.485) and 22nd in field-goal percentage defense (.388). UCI leads the Big West in all those categories.

A big reason for those stats is 7-foot-6 freshman center Mamadou Ndiaye, who ranks seventh nationally in total blocks (67) and ninth in blocks per game (3.35). Ndiaye has made his last 25 field-goal attempts and needs just one more to tie the NCAA Division I record set by Bowling Green's Torian Oglesby in 2011-12. Ndiaye is 15 for 15 from the field in conference play and is averaging 9.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per contest. He is shooting 80% from the field for the season (76 for 95).

Senior Chris McNealy leads UCI in scoring (12.2 per game), followed by fellow starters Will Davis (11.4), Luke Nelson (11.3) and Alex Young (9.6). Davis leads the team in rebounding (6.9 per game) and Young is the top assist man (4.5 per game).

UCSB (12-6, 3-2) leads the Big West in three-point field-goal percentage (.383) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.53).

Junior forward Alan Williams, a first-team All-Big West performer last season, leads Coach Bob Williams' Gauchos, as well as the entire Big West, in scoring (22.9 per game) and rebounding (10.6 per contest). He is second in the conference in average blocks (2.38).

Senior guard Kyle Boswell, out of Edison High in Huntington Beach, leads the conference in three-point shooting accuracy (46%) and is averaging 11.8 points, despite starting only five games thus far.

Sophomore guard Michael Bryson averages 10.3 points per game for UCSB.

— Barry Faulkner

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