GAME NOTES: The UC Irvine Anteaters look to keep pace in the Big West Conference standings as they visit The Matadome take on Cal State Northridge.
Cal State Northridge and UC Irvine will be meeting for the 50th time in history on Thursday. The Anteaters hold a 27-22 all-time series edge after their 79-69 victory over the Matadors on Jan. 12.
The Anteaters collected their second win in a row on Saturday as they clipped UC Santa Barbara after surrendering a 17-point halftime lead. Michael Wilder came up in the clutch with a game-winning 3-pointer in the closing seconds to help UC Irvine rise one game above the .500 mark overall and also to a 6-4 Big West record, placing it three games behind the first place Long Beach State 49ers.
UC Irvine's leading scorer, Daman Starring, is the only double-digit scorer on the squad at 13.4 ppg and even though he tallied a six rebounds, four assists, and three steals, his shooting slump continued. The 6-foot-3 combo guard is 13- of-41 from the floor with 10 turnovers over the span of his last four games. Still, Starring is a danger to CSUN due to his tendency to launch and drain 3-pointers (45-of-102). Chris McNealy is the second scoring option with 9.4 ppg, while Adam Folker chimes in with 9.1 points and a team-best 6.3 boards per game.
The Matadors took care of business their last time out to take away a 69-53 victory from their visit to UC Riverside on Saturday. The win over the Highlanders came one game after Northridge avenged a 19-point loss to Cal State Fullerton. The team is now 12-11 overall, but still just 2-5 in the league standings.
The Matadors shot only 4-of-16 beyond the arc on the night, but forced 13 turnovers and held a 36-27 advantage on the glass to get past UC Riverside on Saturday. Stephen Maxwell tallied 17 points, Brandon Perry had 12, and Josh Green chimed in with 10 points. Tre Hale-Edmerson helped Northridge gained its advantage on the boards by grabbing 10 rebounds.
Stephen Hicks is leading Northridge in scoring (16.8) and steals (2.0), but is out for Thursday due to a knee injury. Maxwell and Greene may need to pick up the slack once again. On the season, Maxwell averages in 14.9 points and 8.0 boards per tilt, while Greene generates 13.1 points and 3.8 assists per contest to the Matadors to the second best scoring mark (76.9) and top steals average (9.0) in the Big West. The Matadors' ability to fill it up has been neutralized by their weak approach on the defensive end that has allowed opponents to score 74.2 ppg.
UC Irvine cannot be as care-free as it was on Saturday against the Matadors, as they are capable of running away with the game due to their array of weapons on the offensive end. Starring will need to snap out of his slump to keep the Anteaters' winning streak alive.
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