A pair of mid-majors lock up in the Golden State as the Big West meets the West Coast Conference. The UC Irvine Anteaters are on the road as they take on the Saint Mary’s Gaels in non-conference play Saturday night. UC Irvine is coming off a 73-59 road loss at UT Rio Grande Valley last Saturday for their third straight loss. Saint Mary’s has won three straight as they waxed Seattle 97-73 at home in their last game last Saturday. The Gaels own a 6-5 edge in the all-time series between the teams and have won three straight: that includes an 84-53 home win in the most recent matchup on December 11, 2016.
UC Irvine Anteaters Try to Snap Losing Skid
UC Irvine sees an end to their road trip here and it can’t come quickly enough. The Anteaters’ loss to UT Rio Grande Valley dropped them to 4-8 on the season as they return to their home state. UC Irvine led by 11 at the half and by 10 with just over nine minutes to play but was outscored 31-7 the rest of the way. The Anteaters shot 41.5 percent from the field and knocked down five of 13 three point attempts in the contest. Free throw shooting and turnovers told the tale: UC Irvine was 10 of 13 at the line compared to UT Rio Grande Valley’s 20 of 27 and the Anteaters turned the ball over 24 times. Max Hazzard had 16 to lead the team in the loss.
The Anteaters have been below average offensively early on this season as they are tied for 227th in scoring offense with 72.7 points per game. UC Irvine is 9th in rebounding with 42.8 per contest and tied for 183rd by handing out 14 assists per game. The Anteaters are 204th in scoring defense as they allow 73.3 points a night. Tommy Rutherford is second on the team in scoring with 9.8 points plus 5.8 rebounds a night: Evan Leonard (team high 10.6 points) is the only player scoring in double figures. Eyassu Worku, John Edgar Jr., Max Hazzard, Brad Greene, Justin Wertner, Brandon Smith and Elston Jones each score at least four points a game as role players for the Anteaters. UC Irvine is shooting 44 percent from the floor as a team. The Anteaters knock down 7.2 three pointers a night on 36.8 percent shooting from beyond the arc. UC Irvine has to improve at the free throw line as they are shooting a subpar 64.9 percent as a team this season.
Saint Mary’s Gaels Look for Fourth Straight Win
Saint Mary’s has bounced back nicely from back to back defeats as they have won three straight games since that point. The Gaels improved to 8-2 on the season as they drubbed an overmatched Seattle squad. Saint Mary’s led by 17 at the half and built on their edge in the second half as they handled the Redhawks. The Gaels shot a blistering 58.6 percent from the field and sank 13 of 24 three point attempts. Taking care of the ball was evident as Saint Mary’s had 25 assists to just four turnovers as a team. Tanner Krebs had 23 points to lead the Gaels in the win.
The Gaels come into this contest 54th in the nation in scoring offense as they average 82.2 points per game. Saint Mary’s is tied for 313th in rebounding with 32.5 boards per contest and 37th with 17.1 assists per contest. The Gaels are above average on the defensive end as they are 116th in scoring defense by allowing 68.8 points per contest. Jock Landale leads Saint Mary’s with 21.3 points plus 9.4 rebounds per game. Calvin Hermanson puts up 14 points a night while Emmett Naar chips in 12.7 points and 9.1 assists a game: he’s second in the nation in assists. Cullen Neal, Jordan Ford, Tanner Krebs, Evan Fitzner and Kyle Clark all put up at least four points a game for the Gaels. Saint Mary’s is shooting 51.8 percent from the floor on the year. The Gaels are sinking 8.1 threes a night while shooting 40.9 percent from beyond the arc. Saint Mary’s is cashing in at the charity stripe as they convert 79.2 percent of their chances at the stripe.
- Anteaters are 1-8 ATS in their last 9 road games vs. a team with a home winning % of greater than .600
- Anteaters are 0-7 ATS in their last 7 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600
- Anteaters are 0-7 ATS in their last 7 games vs. a team with a winning straight up record
- Gaels are 5-1-1 ATS in their last 7 vs. Big West
- Gaels are 22-5-1 ATS in their last 28 games after scoring more than 90 points in their previous game
UC Irvine is reeling right now as they don’t have much in the way of a go-to scorer in crunch time situations. The Anteaters have just one guy scoring in double figures and a bunch of guys in the seven to nine point range. Facing a veteran Saint Mary’s team with plenty of weapons including Landale and Hermanson is a tough matchup. Naar is an elite playmaker who runs the offense efficiently and the Gaels are terrific shooting the ball as a team. Look for Saint Mary’s to win this one easily for their fourth straight victory.