Teams: UC Davis vs. Pacific
Records: Aggies, 9-11 (4-3); Tigers, 11-6 (4-3)
Where: The Pavilion
When: Saturday at 7 p.m.
Radio: KHTK (1140-AM)
Who to watch: Mark Payne called it miserable. He called it humiliating. He called it the worst day ever.
In front of his family and friends, the Stockton native faced his hometown team last year when UC Davis played at Pacific, and the game turned into a 95-50 nightmare.
“It was just awful,” said Payne, who grew up watching Michael Olowokandi play in that same arena. “In the locker room, it was one of those things where you’re like, ‘I can’t believe that just happened.‘ It’s not a good feeling when you get killed in front of all your people.“
Payne has wanted another crack at Pacific ever since, and on Saturday, after an 11-month wait, he’ll finally have his chance.
“My mom is already rounding up as many tickets as she can,” said the sophomore point guard. “We should have a pretty solid cheering section.“
Did you know? Payne is far from being the only Aggie carrying extra motivation into the Pacific game.
Joe Harden also grew up in the Stockton area, playing his prep career alongside Payne at St. Mary’s High. After being assigned the painful role of spectator last year as a redshirt transfer, Harden will play the Tigers for the first game.
As an added incentive, both of the sophomore forward’s parents went to college at Pacific. His father, Steve, played football for the Tigers, and his mother, Barb, played tennis.
The rest of UC Davis‘ players may not have the Pacific connections that Harden and Payne have, but they all should be carrying a chip on their shoulder. As if retribution from last season’s road loss wasn’t enough, UC Davis has lost 45 straight to Pacific, with the last win coming in the 1939-1940 season.
Preview: Throw out all those subplots, and what’s left is still a very meaningful game for the Aggies.
Almost halfway into their conference season, the Aggies find themselves in a three-way tie for second place in the Big West Conference with Pacific and Cal State Northridge. A win on Saturday would put the Aggies ahead of the Tigers in the standings and provide some added momentum heading into next week’s crucial road trip to Long Beach State and Cal Poly.
Working in its favor, UC Davis figures to have a large home crowd on tap. Attendance at last Saturday’s game was a season-high 2,846, and that number is only to go up for this game with all that is on the line.
“It’s huge; it gets us going,” Payne said of the homecourt advantage developing at the Pavilion. “It’s really encouraging for us, because we start winning, and that’s the incentive. If we win, more people come, and this place could be one of the most fun places to play in the country.“
Eleven months ago, Harden was waiting on the sideline for his chance. Payne was waiting for his payback. The entire program was waiting for the losing streak to be snapped.
On Saturday, their waiting could be over
“It’s definitely a big game,” Payne said. “I’m excited. I think we’re ready.“