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Big West weekly review-preview

Thanks to one big upset and one buzzer-beating victory, two teams have created some separation at the top of the Big West Conference standings after week 3.

Hawai’i and UC Irvine are both 4-1 and two games ahead of the rest of the pack in the loss column. The Rainbow Warriors moved into a tie for first after a game-winning 3-pointer by Eddie Stansberry in a 76-75 win over UC Davis on Saturday; the Anteaters dropped out of sole possession of first place after suffering a 63-56 loss at Long Beach State last Wednesday.

The Warriors and Anteaters have already met once, with UCI pulling out a 74-60 win at Irvine, Calif.

The next meeting between Hawai’i and UCI is scheduled for February 15 at the Stan Sheriff Center, and it was recently announced that the game will be televised on ESPN2.

UC Riverside, Cal State Fullerton and CSUN are all tied for third place at 3-3. UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara and Long Beach State are right behind that at 2-3.

In essence, it’s still a toss-up for all positions in the standings with six weeks of regular season games remaining.

Here is a brief look back at last week and a look ahead to this week:

• Long Beach State beat UC Irvine?

Yes, that really happened. The upset of the season so far was Long Beach State’s 63-56 victory over perennial power UC Irvine last Wednesday at the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, Calif. It snapped UCI’s 19-game winning streak against Big West Conference teams, and a 14-game road winning streak at Big West arenas.

The 49ers are now the only Big West team to beat UCI over the last two seasons. The Anteaters were 18-1 against Big West competition last season, with the only loss to Long Beach State in Irvine.

This latest win by the Beach is surprising when considering that the 49ers are 7-14 overall, and lost home games to UC Davis and Cal State Fullerton prior to facing UCI.

• Titans rising

After opening the Big West season with three consecutive losses, Cal State Fullerton has moved up to the middle of the pack with three consecutive wins. The Titans played UC Irvine in the Big West Conference Tournament championship game in 2018 and 2019. Fullerton won it in 2018, and UCI won it last year.

• CSUN’s Diane putting up numbers

CSUN forward Lamine Diane is once again putting up statistics that would rank among the national leaders. The 6-foot-7 sophomore is averaging 27.2 points and 10.6 rebounds per game since becoming eligible in late December.

Diane’s scoring average ranks second in NCAA Division I (Marquette’s Markus Howard is averaging 28.3). However, Diane has played only nine games so far this season and thus does not have enough games to qualify for the official NCAA rankings.

Likewise, Diane’s rebounding total would rank 12th in NCAA-I if he had enough games to qualify for the rankings. In any case, he is one of only three players in the nation currently averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game.

• Player of the Week

Cal State Fullerton’s Brandon Kamga was named the Big West Conference Player of the Week on Monday after helping lead the Titans to two wins last week. The 6-foot-5 senior averaged 24.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in two games, as Fullerton won a road game at UC Davis and a home game against CSUN.

• Best game of last week

Hawai’i 76, UC Davis 75. Eddie Stansberry drained a 3-pointer from the corner off an inbounds pass from Drew Buggs with 3.3 seconds remaining to give the Rainbow Warriors a crucial home victory.  The game featured 10 lead changes, and UCD led by nine points (71-62) with four minutes remaining in the second half.

The Warriors also played without two injured starters – Samuta Avea and Bernardo da Silva. It was Hawai’i’s third consecutive victory, all at home.

Game to watch this week

UC Santa Barbara at CSUN, Thursday. The Gauchos and Matadors were projected to be contenders  but have been inconsistent so far. UCSB is 2-3; CSUN is 3-3. Neither can afford too many more losses if it wants to remain in contention for the regular-season title.

This week’s games
Thursday
Cal State Fullerton at Cal Poly
Long Beach State at UC Riverside
UC Irvine at UC Davis
UC Santa Barbara at CSUN

Saturday
UC Santa Barbara at Long Beach State
Cal Poly at UC Davis
Cal State Fullerton at UC Irvine
CSUN at Hawai’i

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