Gary Stewart remembers the girl he had a crush on when he was 13 years old. And he doesn’t want to talk about her.
“It matters not to me. I don’t focus on that at all,” said the UC Davis men’s basketball coach. “If I’m still worried about a girl I liked when I was 13, I’ve got some problems.“
For Stewart and the Aggies, that girl has been the Pacific Tigers. For a long, long time.
The year was 1940.
We were in the middle of World War II. Gas cost 18 cents a gallon. Chuck Norris was born. Franklin D. Roosevelt was president. John McCain was only four years old (and, somehow, has managed to age 105 years since).
A lot has changed in the past 68 years, but for the UC Davis men’s basketball program, one thing has remained constant: the Aggies haven’t beat Pacific.
Since UC Davis earned a 41-27 win over Pacific late in the 1939-1940 season, the Aggies have been handed 45 consecutive defeats by the Tigers.
Forty-five losses. In a row. Over a span of seven decades. How does that happen?
“Pacific ought to beat Davis if you’ve got full scholarships and you’re Division I and you’re playing a non-scholarship, Division II program,” said Stewart, whose Aggies (9-11, 4-3) host the Tigers (11-7, 4-3) on Saturday at 7 p.m. “I throw all that out the window. I couldn’t even spell Stockton those years ago.“
The Aggies are competing in their second Division I season.
Over the course of the 45-game skid, UC Davis has lost to Pacific by 20-plus points more times (15) than it has by 10 points or less (12). The Aggies have been blown out by more than 30 (six times) nearly as often as they’ve managed to keep things within two possessions (seven times).
It’s those two-possession defeats that hurt the most. Who can forget that pair of two-point losses during the 1945-1946 season? And the time the Aggies stole defeat from the jaws of victory by a single point a season later? Such a heartbreaker.
The near victories aren’t limited to the 1940s, though; in fact, the Aggies beat the Tigers during the 1961-1962 season – according to UC Davis records, that is.
Too bad that didn’t actually happen; it’s just a misprint in the media guide. In reality, the Aggies played the Tigers four times between 1961 and 1962, losing all four – by a combined 100 points. Oh well.
UC Davis came within five points of knocking off Pacific at home last season before traveling to Stockton to get blown out by 45 points – the worst defeat in series history.
“Obviously, it’s a pretty huge rivalry, and to not have beaten them in so many years, it’s pretty astounding,“ said junior center Dominic Calegari. “In the past couple of years, they haven’t been that much better than us, and to lose by 40-something at their place last year was pretty ridiculous. Going up against them this year is going to be a lot of fun.“
There’s little reason to think the Aggies can’t start having some fun playing the Tigers this time around.
The important thing to remember is this UC Davis team has only inherited a 45-game losing streak; it hasn’t created it. It’s only accounted for a handful of those defeats, and its coach wasn’t even born when the streak began.
To end the 68-year burden, UC Davis only needs to think about one thing: the 2008-2009 Pacific Tigers.
“We’ll see what happens on Saturday,” Stewart said. “That’s the most meaningful thing. What happened in the past – you stay in the moment. We’re going to play Pacific on Saturday. The past doesn’t matter. What are they going to do? Bring in their resume? Hand it to the scorer’s table? That doesn’t buy you anything.“
Pacific might be the hardest team in the Big West Conference to get a read on this season.
The Tigers have wins over quality teams like Nevada and Big West preseason favorite Cal State Northridge, but lost to last-place Cal Poly by 16 points on Thursday.
The Aggies also had problems with Cal Poly, letting a 70-54 lead with 9:09 to play turn into a 77-75 loss on Saturday. The defeat snapped a three-game conference winning streak for UC Davis – its longest since joining the Big West.
UC Davis‘ game on Saturday is a chance to stop its most recent loss from turning into a losing streak. The fact it’ll be played against a team it hasn’t beaten in 68 years isn’t the problem.
After all, the Aggies aren’t thinking about her any more.
“I don’t spend any energy thinking about that girl that I liked when I was 13,” Stewart said. “If I’m thinking back about that, I’m missing out on a great tomorrow.“
ADAM LOBERSTEIN doesn’t think about that girl he liked when he was 13, either. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.