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Utah State (4-5) plays the second of five home games during the month of December on Wednesday, hosting UC Irvine (4-6) at 7 p.m., in a game that can be heard on the Aggie Sports Network or seen via the Mountain West Network, online at www.utahstateaggies.com/watch.
• Utah State leads the all-time series against the Anteaters, 32-28, and has won seven of the last nine.
• Utah State is 96-74 against schools in the University of California system, with a 5-5 record against California, a 2-1 record against UC Davis, a 32-28 record against UC Irvine, a 9-1 record against UC Riverside, a 1-0 record against UC San Diego, a 3-8 record against San Francisco, a 41-24 record against UC Santa Barbara and a 3-7 record against UCLA.
• All-time, Utah State is 386-213 against schools from California.
• Opponents are shooting the same percentage from the floor and from behind the 3-point line against the UC Irvine this season, averaging 39.5 percent (236-of-597) overall and 39.5 percent (94-of-238) from long range.
• Free throws may prove to come into play again on Wednesday night as both Utah State and UC Irvine shoot less than 65 percent from the charity stripe. The Anteaters are shooting 63.9 percent (124-of-194) from the line and the Aggies are shooting 63.3 percent (133-of-210).
• Sophomore guard Sam Merrill has scored in double figures in each of the last seven games for Utah State. Merrill is averaging 17.7 points per game over the seven-game stretch.
• Utah State has matched or scored more second-chance points than its opponents over the last four games.
• Utah State’s bench has matched or scored more points than the opponents’ bench in seven of the nine games this season.
Scouting UC Irvine
UC Irvine, picked first in the Big West preseason poll, enters the game having lost five of its last seven, including a 76-65 loss to Nevada in its last time out.
Offensively, UCI is averaging 75.4 points per game and shooting 45.0 percent (277-of-616) from the floor, 37.3 percent (76-of-204) from behind the 3-point line and 63.9 percent (124-of-194) at the free throw line. Individually, the Anteaters are led by a pair of double-digit scorers in Tommy Rutherford with 10.5 points per game and Evan Leonard with 10.1 points per game. Eyassu Worku leads UC Irvine with 43 assists on the year, averaging 4.3 per game.
Defensively, opponents are averaging 74.5 points per game and shooting 39.5 percent (236-of-597) from the floor, a matching 39.5 percent (94-of-238) from behind the 3-point line and 69.9 percent (179-of-256) at the free throw line. Leonard and Worku are tied for the team lead with 14 steals and Jonathan Galloway leads the Anteaters with 17 blocks.
On the glass, UC Irvine is No. 15 in the nation with 42.8 rebounds per game and is led by former Aggie Elston Jones with 7.2 boards per contest.
Head coach Russell Turner is in his eighth year at the helm of UCI, compiling an overall mark of 143-111 over that time, including a 1-1 ledger against the Aggies.
Returning to the Starting Lineup
Senior guard Julion Pearre made his first appearance of the year against BYU and started for the Aggies, marking his first start since Feb. 6, 2016.
Returning to the Starting Lineup with a Bang
Sophomore guard Koby McEwen returned to the starting lineup against BYU for the first time in three games and led the Aggies with a 20-point effort against the Cougars. The performance was just the fourth 20-point outing by an Aggie this season.
Sophomore guard Sam Merrill is currently third in the Mountain West, averaging 34.6 minutes per game. Merrill is also among the top-10 in scoring in the league, ranked 10th with 15.3 point per game.
Sharing the Load on the Glass
Utah State has had six different players lead the team in rebounding over the first nine games this season.
Getting no Breaks at the Break
Utah State has only had two halftime leads this season, but is 2-0 on the year when leading at the intermission.
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