Big West Conference Notebook
Pacific and Utah State neck and neck to the end
As the Big West Conference tournament quickly approaches, Utah State and the University of the Pacific continue to fight for the top spot in the conference. The Aggies have a half-game advantage over the Tigers at 15-1 while Pacific sits at 14-1. USU still has two tough games ahead, facing rival UC Irvine on ESPN2 Saturday night and traveling to Idaho where they will close out the season. Pacific on the other hand closes out the rest of the season at home with three home games against Cal State Northridge, Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside.
Efevberha suspended for UC Irvine
As if UC Irvine wasn’t having enough problems already, things might only get worse. Sophomore guard/forward Mike Efevberha was suspended indefinitely by head coach Pat Douglass on Wednesday. “At this time, I have suspended Mike indefinitely for violating team and department rules,” Douglass said. Efevberha is the team’s second leading scorer at 11.1 points per game.
Cal Poly Mustangs (9-14, 4-11)
The Mustangs are in a fight just to qualify for the Big West Tournament. They are currently tied for last place with Long Beach State and is one-game behind Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside who hold the 7th and 8th spot respectively. Senior Varnie Dennis, hobbling on a injured leg, scored 31 points in a 97-95 overtime victory over UC Riverside. With the victory, the Mustangs snapped a seven-game road losing streak.
Cal State Fullerton Titans (9-15, 5-10)
Cal State Fullerton found another way to lose – this time in a double overtime thriller against UC Santa Barbara, 98-95. With the Titans down to just nine players, they finished the game on Thursday night with just six, as three fouled out during the course of the night. Freshman Bobby Brown has found his second wind, shooting over 50 percent from three point range in his last five games. He continued his hot shooting against the Gauchos, making 7-12 from behind the arc on his way to 23 points.
Cal State Northridge Matadors (11-12, 7-8)
Head coach Bobby Braswell keeps finding ways to win with his depleted basketball team. The Matadors defeated UC Santa Barbara 80-71 last Saturday thanks to some hot shooting in the second half. The Matadors made eight straight three pointers to close out the game and ensure the victory. Junior Ian Boylan scored his 1,000th point in the win and was selected Big West Player of the Week. CSUN can secure a birth in the Big West Tournament with one more victory or a Cal State Fullerton or UC Riverside loss.
Long Beach State 49ers (6-18, 4-11)
So much for that 4-4 start in conference play. Long Beach State has gone a month since their last victory and are in danger of not qualifying for the Big West Tournament. Their latest setback – a 67-47 loss against #24 Utah State moved the 49ers into last place. After hosting Idaho on Saturday in the final home game of the season, the 49ers will finish their regular season with two games against UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly.
UC Irvine Anteaters (11-14, 6-9)
UC Irvine needed a Jeff Gloger buzzer beater to defeat Idaho 65-63 at the Bren Events Center. The Anteaters blew a 20 point lead and was just their second victory in nine games. Barring a total collapse, UC Irvine should qualify for the Big West Tournament, but their last three games won’t be easy. They host Utah State on Saturday night before traveling to UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly. Without Mike Efevberha, seniors Adam Parada, Stan Zuzak and Matt Okoro will be looked upon to pick up the scoring load and provide senior leadership.
UC Riverside Highlanders (8-15, 5-10)
UCR is not ending the season on a good note, dropping three in a row including a close overtime game to Cal Poly. With a tournament spot not secured yet, the Highlanders will have to win two of its last three games to secure a spot. Hosting UC Santa Barbara on Saturday, the Highlanders will close out against Cal State Northridge and Pacific, both teams which are tough to beat at home.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (14-10, 8-7)
The Gauchos won a crucial game on Thursday night against Cal State Fullerton as they look to secure third place in the conference. Currently they have a one-half game lead over fourth place Idaho. February has been a rough month for the Gauchos, dropping four of their last six games. Free-throw shooting has hurt UCSB as they are dead last in the conference, shooting 64 percent from the line.
Idaho Vandals (12-14, 8-8)
Thanks to some great defense, the Vandals have won seven of their last nine games. In that stretch, Idaho has held its opponents to only 54.9 points per game. The Vandals are trying to sneak into third place which would give them a first-round bye in the Big West Tournament. Senior Tyrone Hayes has been the key to their success, averaging 14.1 points and 5.6 rebounds in conference play. Senior guard Dwayne Williams, who leads the league in three pointers made with 65, sits fourth all time in the Idaho record book with 125 threes in just two seasons.
Pacific Tigers (19-7, 14-1)
With one more victory, the Tigers will tie its school record for most conference wins. The Pacific will look to extend its 10 game winning streak on Saturday against Cal State Northridge. In the first meeting, the Tigers squeaked one out 86-78 at the Matadome. Senior guard Miah Davis is making a run at Big West Player of the Year, averaging 15.0 points and 3.2 assists in conference play.
Utah State Aggies (23-2, 15-1)
With their victory over Cal State Fullerton, the Aggies closed out their home schedule at 15-0, the fourth time in school history. In that Titans victory, USU shot an impressive 68.1 percent from the field. Junior Spencer Nelson has recorded four double-doubles on the season and is still recovering from a broken nose.