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Preview: ASU and UC Irvine will be a battle of the big men

Coming off a 76-62 victory at Wells Fargo Arena last Saturday afternoon against Texas Tech, Arizona State looks to continue its three-game win steak against UC Irvine Saturday in Tempe.

Last game, ASU sophomore point guard Jahii Carson dished out a career-high 13 assists to go along with his 16 points while Penn State transfer Jermaine Marshall scored a season-high 27 points, headed by his seven three-pointers.

With the win, ASU moved to 10-2 on the season and looks to pick up one last non-conference win before moving into conference play Thursday, Jan. 2 against Washington.

UC Irvine (7-6) is coming off a 63-50 win at Denver last Saturday, lead by senior guard Chris McNealy and freshman guard Luke Nelson.

McNealy had 14 points and is UC Irvine’s leading scorer on the season. McNealy averages 12.4 points a night and is the third leading rebounder on the team with 4.5 a game. McNealy also has gotten to the free throw line 44 times, converting 27 of them.

Nelson also had 14 points in the win against Denver and is the second leading scorer on UCI with 12.0 points a game. Nelson leads the team with 16 steals in his eleventh start of the season.

Junior 6-foot-8 forward Will Davis II and 7-foot-6 freshman center Mamadou Ndiaye lead the rebounding charge for UCI as r they are averaging seven and 5.5 rebounds a game respectfully.

ASU and UC Irvine are fairly matched in all categories including scoring, rebounding, steals, turnovers and blocks.

The Sun Devils are averaging 79.8 points per game and 38.2 rebounds while the Anteaters are averaging 77.3 points per game and 39.9 rebounds.

Having the slight rebounding edge might be a key factor in the game for UCI as ASU’s senior center Jordan Bachynski will need extra help inside for ASU’s inside-out game to be effective since Ndiaye at 7-foot-6 will surely cause some trouble for Bachynski down low.

While Bachynski is averaging 9.8 rebounds and has 57 blocks so far, Ndiaye has 45 blocks on the season so far and his height will be a presence ASU hasn’t seen s far this season.

UCI has already played three Pac-12 teams this season and picked up its first win of the season at Washington, 86-72, in mid-November.

Keys to Victory:

              1.    Matchup between Bachynski and Ndiaye

 Not enough stress can be put on shutting down Ndiaye in the paint or at least taking him out of his comfort zone and possibly drawing him out of the paint. Against Washington, another Pac-12 school, Ndiaye scored 18 points, hitting seven of nine shots, and added eight rebounds and nine blocks. UCI’s defense relies on Ndiaye to be the huge presence down low and clean up the offensive glass as well. For ASU to be successful, Bachnyski needs to match Ndiaye’s game and make it tough on Ndiaye down in the paint to score. Smart play by ASU guards to work the inside-out game is crucial as well to create open shots on the outside and driving lanes inside.

              2.    Capitalize on turnovers

 UCI is averaging 13 turnovers a game, and has a turnover margin of negative 2.4.  If ASU can continue this trend and force UCI into turning the ball over, ASU has a quick backcourt that is smart to run the floor and score with ease. If the Sun Devils cannot convert on these opportunities, it will be a long night. With UCI coming in with such a balanced attack and a big man in the center, ASU can’t make a lot of mistakes. The Sun Devils need to score whenever it can, whether that is on breakaway steals or slowing it down and running its plays.

              3.    Threes, Threes, Threes   

 Three-pointers and free throws are other key factors for ASU’s game. With ASU’s junior forward Jonathan Gilling constantly having hot and cold nights one after the next, the Sun Devils need to be able to capitalize on the open shots it gets behind the arc or be consistently driving to the basket and taking on the big man down low in order to get to the line. ASU has to be strong in the either its perimeter shooting or its effectiveness driving and getting the three-point plays.


UC Irvine is a good team that shouldn’t be taken lightly to ASU before it head into Pac-12 conference play. With such a balanced group of players for UCI, ASU will need to respond with a balanced group of its own in order to be effective throughout the night. Close game with ASU either going on a run to end the first half or in the middle of the second half. ASU wins 78-70.

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