Teams: UC Davis at Long Beach State; UC Riverside
Records: Aggies, 9-12 (4-4); 49ers, 11-9 (6-2); Highlanders, 11-9 (3-5)
Where: Walter Pyramid – Long Beach, Calif.; Student Rec Center – Riverside, Calif.
When: Today at 7:05 p.m.; Saturday at 5:15 p.m.
Radio: KFSG (1690-AM)
Who to watch: Long Beach and UC Riverside shared the same fate in their first encounter with UC Davis this season: they couldn’t stop Mark Payne.
The high-flying point guard had a double-double against both teams this season, averaging 19 points, 10 rebounds, 4.5 assists and two steals while shooting 82.4 percent from the floor.
Did you know? Winning on the road hasn’t been a challenge so far this season for most Big West Conference teams.
The nine league teams are a combined 26-16 on the road in the conference play, and the only two with a losing road record are UC Santa Barbara (1-4) and UC Riverside (1-3).
If this trend of road success continues in the second half of the Big West season, no team will benefit more than UC Davis. The Aggies, who are 2-1 so far when away from the Pavilion, have a league-high five road games left on their regular-season schedule.
Preview: UC Davis takes to the road looking to get its swagger back.
After winning three straight Big West games for the first time in program history, the team has suffered two consecutive home losses.
A common theme in the pair of defeats was the Aggies‘ fading in the second half. Against Cal Poly on Jan. 24, they led 70-54 with nine minutes remaining, but were outscored 22-4 the rest of the way in a 77-75 loss. Last Saturday versus Pacific, they were up 37-31 with 16:23 left before the Tigers went on a 16-0 run en route to an 80-65 win.
Heading down to Southern California, UC Davis will be aiming to finish what it starts. That effort begins tonight in Long Beach against the current frontrunner in the Big West.
The Aggies outplayed the 49ers for the most of the teams‘ previous meeting on Jan. 10. Despite falling 86-78 at the Pavilion, UC Davis outscored Long Beach 68-44 for nearly three-fourths of the game. The difference of the contest was a 42-10 run that the 49ers went on to close out the final 10 minutes and 43 seconds of the first half.
The difference this time around could be Donovan Morris. The senior guard was the top scorer in the first meeting, putting up 27 points on 10-of-17 shooting, including 4-of-7 from beyond the arc.
Morris has had his struggles recently, however. He missed the team’s last game, a 67-63 win at UC Irvine, with a nagging right foot injury and the stomach flu. Morris averaged just 8.5 points on a combined 8-of-28 shooting in the two games prior – both losses.
UC Davis will complete its two-game road set against UC Riverside, which won its first seven home games this season but has since dropped two straight at the Student Rec Center.
The Highlanders have lost five of their last six games since opening the Big West season with two wins. They will have the chance to get back on track tonight when they open a three-game homestand against Pacific.
Working in their favor is their defense. UC Riverside ranks second in the league with 64.4 points allowed per game and third with a 42.3 field goal percentage against.
Kyle Austin has finished as the team’s top scorer in 11 of the past 13 games. The junior Southern California transfer was held to 17 points on 8-of-21 shooting when UC Davis defeated UC Riverside 65-58 on Jan. 4.