It’s going to take more than one tough loss to shake the confidence of the UC Davis men’s basketball team.
The Aggies won their third straight Big West Conference game on Thursday, and nearly captured their fourth straight on Saturday before a large lead was erased down the stretch by Cal Poly.
For UC Davis, the loss was a heartbreaker, not a deal breaker.
“We have a long way to go – a long way to go,” said coach Gary Stewart. “You’re not going to hang your hat on one game in January. We’ve got a lot of basketball to be played yet. We got to stay in the moment, the next game against Pacific, and move on.“
With a 4-3 league mark, the Aggies sit in a three-way tie for second place in the Big West with Cal State Northridge and Pacific, which comes to the Pavilion on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Thursday – UC Davis 89, UC Santa Barbara 75
Back and forth, up and down the court, a pair of 7-foot-2 centers exchanged blows.
Michael Boone was scoring hook shots and landing rebounds on one end. Greg Somogyi was doing the same on the other.
Finally, midway through the second half, a winded Somogyi was forced to the bench.
“Hey Coach!” a fan yelled to UCSB’s Bob Williams. “Put the big guy back in!”
Williams fired back, “He’s tired, you moron!”
The game had become a battle of attrition, and the Gauchos couldn’t keep up.
UC Davis pushed the tempo and pulled away late from a fatigued UCSB, building a double-digit lead in the second half and never looking back en route to its third straight win, 89-75.
“In our style of offense, we’re running so much,” said Boone, who had 12 points and tied a career high with eight rebounds. “You tend to see a point where the opponent breaks, and that’s usually when we get our separation. They couldn’t run with us. Their shots weren’t falling and ours were, because we are accustomed to playing that style.“
After trailing 61-60 with 11:30 remaining, the Gauchos were just 6-for-17 from the field to close out the game. The Aggies went 10-for-18 over that same span.
Boone was one of six UC Davis players to finish in double figures. Vince Oliver led the team in scoring for the third straight game, going 8-for-14 for 21 points while dishing out a game-high five assists to only one turnover.
The Aggies shot a blistering 56.7 percent from the floor, 52.4 percent from beyond the arc and 90.9 percent from the free throw line.
Chris Devine led UCSB with 27 points and eight rebounds, and Somogyi added 12 points, four boards and two blocks.
Saturday – Cal Poly 77, UC Davis 75
The Aggies let off the gas pedal for nine minutes, effectively putting the brakes on the program’s longest Big West winning streak.
With a 70-54 cushion and 9:09 remaining in regulation, UC Davis let its guard down and Cal Poly’s Chaz Thomas took advantage. The senior guard scored eight of his team’s final nine points to cap a 23-5 Mustang run and deal the Aggies a rough 77-75 loss.
“We let it get away,” Kyle Brucculeri said. “We just let it get away. A big lead and we stopped attacking.“
Thomas scored all 10 of his points in the second half, but none were bigger than the three-pointer he drained with 51 seconds remaining that gave Cal Poly a 76-74 lead.
After both teams swapped a free throw, UC Davis had the final possession with 19 seconds remaining, but a busted play led the Aggies to settle for a desperation three-pointer just before the final buzzer.
“You have to sprint your cuts to initiate the play,” Stewart said. “We jogged into it, so we lost the timing of the play, and the play collapsed and broke down…. But it should not have come down to a one-possession game.“
Joe Harden led UC Davis with 16 points and 11 rebounds, his fifth double-double of the season. Dominic Calegari added 15 points and Brucculeri tied a season high with four three–pointers to finish with 13.
MICHAEL GEHLKEN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.