UC Irvine vs. Wyoming
Tip off: 9 PM EST
Spread: WYO -16
UC Irvine was 13-19 last season with a 6-10 record in Big West play. They lost to Long Beach State by 7 in the Big West quarterfinals, and of course were not invited to any post season tournaments.
Their defense must improve. They gave up 1.06 points per possession last year, and through their first six games this season — all losses — they have given up 78 or more points in 5 of the 6 games, with the only exception being a narrow loss in a grunt it out 51-50 game against San Jose State.
Things have gotten slightly better for the Anteaters. They beat San Diego by 20 on December 3rd and took care of business against Vanguard Saturday night, in a 2 point win that came down to a tip in by freshman Will Davis, who recorded 17 points and 13 rebounds in the win. Davis’ 17 off the bench led the way, whlie Michael Wilder and Daman Starring each chipped in 16.
It may be a good sign for the Anteaters. They are both rebounding and passing the ball very well (40 rpg, 15 apg). While no one averages more than 7 rebounds a game on UC Irvine, they do it by committee and all four starters help on the boards and contribute at least 4 a game. The same holds true for the high assists. Starring, Wilder, Chris McNealy, and Aaron Wright all average 2.5 assists or more per game.
Interior defense must improve for UC Irvine, clearly, though. There is no one even close to one block a game, and they aren’t forcing many turnovers through steals either. Improving those defensive aspects may allow the Anteaters to get out into the open court and score some more points.
For a team that finished 10-21 last season and lost 13 of their 16 conference games, things couldn’t be looking any sunnier for the Cowboys now. They have won 9 of their first 10 games, and took down Colorado Friday night by 11. While the Cowboys are in a weak conference, they have dominated their non conference foes so far, weak as those opponents have been, as well. Other than an 8 point loss to Green Bay on November 19th, they have been perfect.
They get most of their damage done from a quartet of Luke Martinez, Francisco Cruz, Leonard Washington, and Adam Waddell. They four of them combined average 48 of the Cowyboys’ 68 points per game (70%).
Martinez, a 6’4″ junior guard from Bismarck North Dakota, has put up 13.0 points per game after having to sit two seasons with a broken elbow after transferring from a JUCO. He’s hit 46.6% of his threes and is also playing good defense with 1.4 steals per game.
In the win over Colorado, Martinez chipped in 14 points to go with Washington’s 16 and Waddell’s 17. Waddell, despite being 6’10” and a fifth year senior, is only averaging 3 rebounds per game in 23 minutes a night. This must improve since the Cowboys are near the bottom in D1 rebounding, with only 33.2 rebounds per game (268th of 344).
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