Vince Oliver threw it up. Mark Payne slammed it down.
That was only the beginning.
Payne stole the ball from Pacific’s Brian LeDuc on the next possession, running the length of the floor to fight his way to the free throw stripe for a chance to give UC Davis the lead late in the first half.
An already rowdy Pavilion crowd was on its feet. Payne was high-fiving every fan in sight. And with that, after hitting both free throws, it looked as if the Stockton, Calif. native was on his way to helping the Aggies to their first win over his hometown Pacific Tigers since 1940.
Then things changed.
A 30-26 halftime lead quickly went awry, as Pacific shot 67.9 percent in the second session and held UC Davis to six field goals en route to handing the Aggies their 46th straight loss to the Tigers, 80-65.
“It hurts,” Payne said. “To be up at halftime and let it go – it just hurts.“
There was plenty of hurting to go around, as the Aggies had a tough time making the necessary adjustments to slow down the Tigers.
This was particularly evident inside the paint. UC Davis didn’t have an answer for Pacific’s entry passes into the post, as the Tigers built a 40-16 advantage inside (26-4 in the second half).
“They kept us off balance, and then we got tentative,” said coach Gary Stewart. “They were able to put the ball in the paint with the dribble [in the second half], where in the first half, they were coming off the on-ball and passing it into the paint.
“The guy coming off the on-ball in the second half put it in himself in the paint. That was the adjustment they made.“
UC Davis had no such luck making adjustments, losing its intensity in the second half for the second straight game. The Aggies also saw a first-half advantage turn into second-half disappointment last Saturday against Cal Poly.
Last week’s loss to the Mustangs, however, didn’t keep a 68-year losing streak alive. Saturday’s defeat did.
“Tonight, Pacific was better, and you’ve got to give credit to a team that was better,” Stewart said. “But tomorrow’s another day. …Our program is not measured by one game. We’re trying to get the upper echelon of the conference. We’re trying to win the conference. We’re going to have to beat a lot of people to meet those goals.“
Beating a lot of people would include the Tigers, but not solely the Tigers.
“If we were to win the Pacific game and lose the rest of our games, that’s not a very good conference season for us,” Stewart said. “Conversely, if we win all of our games except the two Pacific games and win the conference championship, we’d sign up for that every single time.“
That said, making some adjustments to put the wraps on a 46-game losing streak to Pacific would be nice, too.
“In league, you’ve got to make adjustments from game to game,” Oliver said. “We’ve got to adjust to go out and win.“
What does UC Davis need to do to win the Big West Conference? What does it have to do differently to beat Pacific when the two schools meet again on Feb. 25 in Stockton?
“A lot of things,” Stewart said.
Like maintaining the aggressiveness and toughness necessary to handle the Tigers for 40 minutes? Making adjustments on the fly to prevent Pacific from dominating inside once again?
“We’ve got to be more consistent,” Stewart said, “but it’s one game. …Until they tell me something different, I think if we win the rest of our games, we play in the NCAA Tournament. That was the same way it was before I came in the building tonight. Nothing has changed.“
ADAM LOBERSTEIN doesn’t use this space to make shout-outs – until now, because someone shouted at him (and everyone else in attendance on Saturday for that matter). Here’s to the dude who sat across from the Aggie Pack wearing “The Heckler” t-shirt for single handedly out-yelling the entire west side of the Pavilion. Loberstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.