The No. 11-ranked Texas A&M Aggies (9-1) continue their homestand on Saturday afternoon when they play the University of California - Irvine Anteaters (4-6) at 1 p.m. at Reed Arena.
UC Irvine is coming off a close 61-54 loss on the road to the undefeated (10-0) Sam Houston State Bearkats on Thursday night. UC Irvine led Sam Houston St 27-25 at the half. This was probably UC Irvine's best game of the season.
UC Irvine plays in the Big West Conference with the likes of UC Santa Barbara (10-1) and Cal State Fullerton (6-2).
Pat Douglass, in his 11th season as head coach at UC Irvine in 2007-08, is just 7 victories away from becoming the career wins' leader in Anteater men's basketball coaching history.
Douglas has a record of 157-144 at UC Irvine and has led the program to a Big West Conference finish of first or second four times in the last seven years, with back-to-back league titles in 2001 and 2002 and runner-up showings in 2003 and 2006. Over the last seven and a half seasons, his Anteater teams have won 72 percent (72-28) of their home games and have averaged of 17.7 wins per season.
UC Irvine's Detroit's best win of the year was against Utah State 70-51 in mid November.
To get a better feel for just how good this UC Irvine team is, the Anteaters are currently ranked No. 207 (of 341) in the latest Jeff Sagarin NCAA Basketball Ratings. Texas A&M is ranked No. 15 in Saragin's ratings. UC Irvine's 4 wins came against Loyola Marymount (No. 279), Utah State (No. 187), Alaska Fairbanks (non-NCAA Div I), and San Francisco (No. 242). UC Irvine's 6 losses include Nevada (No. 99), Mississippi State (No. 98), Chattanooga (No. 132), San Diego (No. 167), Utah (No. 91), and Thursday night to Sam Houston State (No. 57).
UC Irvine is averaging 68 point a game while giving up an average of 65 points a game. The Anteaters are shooting 46% from the field and 36% of 3-point attempts.
UC has a fairly balanced attack, with no player averaging over 13 points or over 6 rebounds a game. Their inside players appear to be the strength of their team, so on paper they match up much better with the Aggies than A&M's last two opponents.
Senior 6-6 forward Patrick Sanders (above) leads the Anteater attack with 13 points and 5 rebounds a game. Senior center Darren Fells (6-7, 255) is averaging 12 points and 4 rebounds a game. Junior forward Kevin Bland (6-7, 255) is averaging 9 points and 6 rebounds a game. Senior guard Chuma Awaji averages 9 points a game while sophomore gouard Michael Hunter is averaging 7 points and over 3 assists a game. Junior guard Trey Harris came off the bench in Thursday's Sam Houston St game and scored 13 points.
We thought the Detroit game could be closer if the Titans had been able to shoot well, but the Aggie defense held Detroit to 24% shooting and A&M raced to a 40-point rout.
UC Irvine may match up better on the inside than either Arkansas - Pine Bluff or Detroit, but they still can't compete with the Aggie front line. Combine that with a pretty weak backcourt, and this should be another blowout for the Aggies.
We just hope the Aggies will be ready for real competition on the road in January after this succession of lowly opponents at home..
Once again, at some point this season, the Aggies will need to start making those free throws they have been missing, but again it won't matter in this game..