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

UC Irvine Pregame

Vs. Long Beach State

Thursday, 7:30 p.m. at Bren Events Center

The UC Irvine men's basketball team is bidding for its fourth straight win over Long Beach State, which has captured the Big West Conference regular-season title the three previous seasons.

Both teams enter Thursday's contest in a three-way tie for first place with UC Santa Barbara. UCI (14-9, 5-2 in conference) is ranked No. 22 in the mid-major top-25 poll and has won nine of its last 13.

Coach Russell Turner's Anteaters rank No. 8 nationally in assists per game (16.9), No. 11 in blocked shots per game (6.3) and No. 18 in field-goal-percentage defense (.389). They also lead the Big West in those three categories.

Mamadou Ndiaye, a 7-foot-6 freshman center, ranks No. 8 in the nation in total blocks (70). Ndiaye has made 18 of 22 field-goal tries in conference play (81.8%) and is shooting 77.5% for the season (78 for 102).

It's "White Out" night at the Bren, with all fans encouraged to wear white. UCI is 21-5 in its last 26 games at the Bren.

UCI freshman Luke Nelson, who averaged 20.5 points in two games last week, leads the 'Eaters in scoring (12.1 per game). His 48 three-pointers also top the team.

Senior Chris McNealy (11.8 points per game) is followed by junior Will Davis (11.4), sophomore Alex Young (9.4) and Ndiaye (8.6).

Davis, who missed both games last week with a back injury, is expected to be ready this week. He leads the team in rebounding at 6.9 per game, with Ndiaye second at 6.2.

Young's 4.5 assists pace UCI.

Long Beach State (9-12, 5-2), which has won four straight, is led by junior guard Mike Caffey (17.5 ppg), junior guard Tyler Lamb (15.5 ppg) and senior forward Daniel Jennings (9.8 ppg). Jennings leads the 49ers with 7.9 rebounds per contest.

— Barry Faulkner

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