Scouting report: UC Irvine
Game info: 8 p.m. Thursday at Alaska Airlines Arena (10,000 capacity).
TV: Pac-12 Networks.
Radio: 950-AM KJR (Bob Rondeau and Jason Hamilton).
2012-13 record: 21-16 overall, 11-7 (fourth in Big West).
Stats/schedule: Click here.
Game notes: UC Irvine.
Coach: Russell Turner, 43, enters his fourth season at UC Irvine with a 45-54 record with the Anteaters. After guiding them to a 21 wins – the third most in school’s 48-year history – he agreed to a contract extension that expires after the 2017-18 season. Turner was hired April 9, 2010 after serving the previous six seasons as an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors. He was also an assistant at Stanford and Wake Forest.
Prediction: The Anteaters were picked to win the Big West in a preseason media poll. UC Irvine received nine of 24 first-place votes.
Series: Not much history between the schools. UC Irvine leads 1-0.
Last meeting: The Anteaters won 56-55 on Dec. 28, 2000.
Previous game: UC Irvine lost 84-79 at Pacific on Tuesday. The Anteaters may still be reeling from a heartbreaking, buzzer-beating 98-97 defeat in overtime in the season opener on Nov. 8. Click here to watch the final seconds.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
— Junior 6-8 forward Will Davis II is a shot-blocking savant and one of the best in the country. He’s the reigning Big West defensive player of the year who had 88 blocks last season, which shattered the school single-season record 55 he set as a freshman. Davis came within one block of tying the all-time Big West record set by Michael Olowokandi of Pacific.
Davis has twice blocked eight shots in a game, which is also a school record. He has 143 blocks during his three seasons.
His rebounding skills are also exceptional, averaging 6.8 last season. His career high is 15. Offensively, Davis has difficulty creating his own offense and generally on the receiving end of passes that result in layups or dunks. he averaged 9.7 points last season.
He was named to the Mid-Major Defensive All-America team and the all-Big West Tournament team. He was also voted to the six-player all-Big West team by the media before the 2013-14 season.
– Alex Young set a freshman school record with 144 assists and posted nation’s 16th best assist-to-turnover ratio (2.62) last season. His personal best is nine assists. The 6-1 guard racked up the awards after the season including Big West Co-Freshman of the Year honors, all-Big West Tournament team and CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Freshmen All-American team.
Young tallied 20 points, including four three-pointers in last week’s season-opening defeat.
As a junior he led Phoenix High (Phoenix, Ore.) to a state title following the 2010-11 season and won Oregon’s 4A player of the year award.
— Senior guard Chris McNealy is poised for a big year after suffering a minor setback last season when his scoring average fell from 10.2 points per game as a sophomore to 9.2. He tallied a personal best 27 points in last week’s season opener and has a team-leading 21.0 scoring average.
— UC Irvine lost to Pacific in the Big West Tournament title and missed out on their first ever trip to the NCAA tournament. However, the Anteaters made it to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, which was its first postseason berth in 11 years. The Anteaters won their first-round game, their first postseason victory since 1986.
—UC Irvine is arguably the nation’s tallest team. The Anteaters boast three 7-footers, including 7-6 starting center Mamadou Ndiaye. He had nine points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots during an exhibition against Chapman.
— The other 7-footers include 7-0 sophomore Conor Clifford and 7-2 freshman Ioannis Dimakopoulos. UC Irvine has seven players who are 6-8 or taller.
— Newcomers Dominque Dunning, who transferred from New Mexico, and freshman British import Luke Nelson, England’s U-18 Player of the year in 2012, adds depth to the backcourt.
C – Mamadou Ndiaye, 7-6, 290, Fr., 7.0 ppg, 5.0 rbg, 1.5 bpg.
F – Will Davis II, 6-8, 210, Jr., 11.0, 9.5, 1.5
G – Chris McNealy, 6-4, 195, Sr., 21.0, 4.5, 2.0 apg
G – Luke Nelson, 6-3, 182, Fr., 9.5, 1.0, 2.0
G – Alex Young, 6-1, 190, So., 18.5, 4.5, 4.0
— Senior center Perris Blackwell is expected to make his Washington debut after missing the season opener with a concussion. He draws a tough assignment in Ndiaye. Blackwell, 6-9, is nine inches shorter and 15 pounds lighter than the UC Irvine freshman center. And if Blackwell gets past Ndiaye, he’s got to be aware of Davis, who is an excellent shot blocker.