UC-Irvine Anteaters (6-6, 1-4 Big West, 3-4 road)
Pat Douglass's UC-Irvine squad began the year in the unfamiliar role of Big West also-rans. With only four players returning from last season, expectations were reasonably low. Two double-digit losses to UCLA and USC did little to change this perception, but then the Anteaters went on a five-game winning streak, including road games at Santa Clara and Cal Poly. That run was snapped at Santa Barbara, and they've now lost four conference games in a row, two at home.
UC-Irvine's strength is in shooting the ball and denying their opponents good shots. For the season they are .453 from the field and .368 on three-pointers. They have limited their opponents to shooting .396 from the field, still the best in the Big West. They average just 5.27 steals p/g, 9th in the Big West, but commit the third-fewest turnovers at 14.4 p/g.
The Anteaters live and die by the three. In their six wins, they are .463 from outside. In their five losses, they are only .244 from outside.
UCI's rotation has gone nine players deep most games, sometimes ten. They only used 7 players in their narrow loss to Pacific. Their three leading scorers account for 57.3% of their scoring, and their starting guards and wing are responsible for 87.1% of their three-pointers made. Four players are responsible for 78.4% of their turnovers.
#14 Ross Schraeder is the Anteater's leading scorer and one of the more dangerous long-range shooters in the region. The 6'5" junior's 14.1 points per game puts him tied for 8th in the conference. He is shooting an impressive .465 from three-point range (5th in BW) and .889 at the free throw line (2nd in BW). 99 of his 155 points have come on three-pointers, and his average of 3.00 treys per game places him behind only CSUF's Bobby Brown in the Big West. He hit 6-of-13 three-pointers to lead the Anteaters over Cal Poly with 20 points, but only attempted 8 shots in the loss the UCSB and was 0-for-5 against Northridge.
Schraeder is generally a catch-and-shoot threat, and doesn't handle the ball much. As a result, he's only committed 13 turnovers for the year and has a nearly 2:1 A/TO ratio. His contributions on offense dwarf those on defense, where he has only 4 steals and 26 defensive rebounds and is a definite liability in guarding opposing 2-guards.
Last year against the Titans, Schraeder scored a total of 14 points and was
4-for-9 on three-pointers. Both games took place before the suspension of Mike Efevberha, and it wasn't until after that time that Schraeder really stepped up
for the Anteaters.
#42 Greg Ethington has emerged as a presence inside for the Anteaters. The 6'8" center is the only senior on UCI's team. He is 3rd on the team in scoring with 13.0 points p/g and his 6.4 rebounds per game lead the team. He has a .531 field goal percentage. Ethington is not really a scoring threat from outside of the post. He also leads UCI in fouls with 3.5 per game, and has fouled out of four games this year. For what it's worth, he has 9 blocks.
Ethington served a Mormon mission in British Columbia for two years, and was
on the Big West All-Freshman Team when Bobby Brown was a freshman at
Westchester. He had 12 points and was perfect from the field at Titan Gym last
year, but had only two points against Fullerton at the Bren.
#3 Aaron Fitzgerald starts at point guard and leads the Anteaters with 32.8 minutes played per game. The 6'2" junior averages 5.45 assists per game, which leads the Anteaters and the Big West. He's also scoring 14.1 points per game, tying with Schraeder for the team lead and 8th in conference, and is fourth on the team in rebounding at 4.0 rpg. For the year, Fitzgerald has made 18 of his 51 three-point attempts (.353). His A/TO ratio of 1.36:1 is 7th in the conference, and he has 13 steals.
Fitzgerald may be the most well-travelled player in the Big West and a kiss
of death for head coaches. A native of Seattle, he played his freshman year at
Portland State for current CSUN assistant Joel Sobotka. After Sobotka was fired
from PSU, Fitzgerald transferred to Washington State, where he sat out a season
as a redshirt. When WSU's coach was fired, Fitzgerald moved to Texas to play for
a JC. Somehow his JC coach kept his job and Fitzgerald transferred to UCI.
#13 Darren Fells passed up a chance to play I-A football to play basketball for UC-Irvine. He was also heavily recruited by Cal State Fullerton. The 6'7" freshman was an all-state tight end for Fullerton High School. He uses the skills learned on the gridiron to lead all Big West freshmen in rebounding, with 6.0 per game. He also contributes 7.8 points per game on .474 shooting. His play has improved remarkably in conference games, where he averages 9.5 points and 8.2 rebounds.
#11 Nic Campbell earned the starting small forward spot in Mid-December and started six games before going back to the bench against Pacific. Prior to starting, the 6'6" sophomore averaged 3.7 points per game; in the five he started before last week, that number's was up to 6.4 per game. Like Schraeder and Fitzgerald, he can do damage from the outside, hitting 10-for-29 (.345) of his three-pointers, but he missed a big one in the final minute of the loss to Pacific on Saturday. Campbell appeared in both games against the Titans last season, scoring 9 points.
#10 Jeff Gloger, once the jack-of-all-trades, has fallen out of favor in Eaterville. At the start of the year, the 6'4" junior was moved to small forward to make room for Fitzgerald. Four games in, he lost his starting spot to Campbell and was relegated to backing up Fitzgerald and Campbell. He started at the 3-spot against Pacific. Gloger led the Anteaters in assists and steals his first two seasons and in minutes last year.
His minutes have dropped from 35 per game to 25.5. He still contributes 7.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game. But his turnovers have gone up to 3.45 per game. He's shooting .469 from the field, but has made only one three-pointer.Gloger does still lead the Anteaters in steals, with 14.
Last year against the Titans, Gloger did almost everything. At Titan Gym,
Gloger scored 10 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and had 4 assists, playing all 40
minutes. At the Bren, he had only 7 points, but added 9 rebounds, and 9 assists
in 35 minutes.
#34 Adam Metelski fills in for Ethington at center when necessary. The 6'10" junior from Poland plays only 11.7 minutes per game, but produces 4.2 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. He also maintains a nice .568 shooting percentage.
#22 Shamar Armstrong averages 3.8 points and 1.8 rebounds. The 6'3" guard is a poor fill-in for Schraeder, as he only connects on .240 of his three point attempts and .368 from the field overall, playing just 10.7 minutes per game. He did not play against Pacific.
#24 Patrick Sanders, the 6'6" freshman, has been called upon to spell Fells and/or Campbell for an average of 10.5 minutes per game. He averaged 2.7 rebounds and 2.2 points per game. He did not play against Pacific.
#20 Davis Baker has appeared in five games. Baker averages 6.4 minutes, and has a total of 6 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists. The 6'4" freshman will do a Mormon mission after the season. Maybe he should have left sooner to tune up his shooting, since he's only 2-for-11 this season. Both of his made shots were three-pointers.
#32 Andrew Bruckner (6'9", So.) hasn't played since the San Jose State game nearly three weeks ago. Prior to that he had appeared in four games for a total of 14 minutes. In that timespan, he made 1 free throw and committed 3 fouls.