If there is one thing the Big West Conference has, it’s parity.
The UC Davis men’s basketball team sits in a four-way tie for fourth place in the Big West standings after upsetting league-leading Long Beach State on Thursday and then falling to UC Riverside on Saturday.
With a 5-5 conference record, the Aggies are two games behind Long Beach State, sitting alongside UC Riverside, Pacific and UC Irvine.
UC Davis returns to the Pavilion this week to host UC Irvine on Thursday and third-place Cal State Fullerton on Saturday. Both games tip off at 7 p.m.
Thursday – UC Davis 82, Long Beach State 76
Vince Oliver couldn’t help himself from smiling.
After the night he had, no one could blame him.
The senior guard scored 22 of his career-high 33 points in the second half, including 10 in the final minute, to carry UC Davis to an 82-76 upset road win over Long Beach State (12-10, 7-3).
“It feels good, I’m not going to lie,” Oliver said. “I was in a groove and my teammates got me the ball. But I’m most proud that it came in a win.“
Oliver was 9-of-16 from the field, 3-of-5 from beyond the arc and 12-of-14 from the line, topping his previous career high of 30 set as a sophomore.
The performance saw Oliver vault from seventh to fifth on UC Davis‘ all-time scoring list, surpassing John Frost (1,346 points) and Ryan Moore (1,358) with 1,374 career points.
“It’s an honor,” Oliver said. “But it‘s something I won’t really think about until the season is over. I‘m just focusing on the season right now and trying to get to the [NCAA] Tournament.“
Oliver’s biggest field goal was his last, a three-pointer from the right corner that gave UC Davis a four-point lead with a minute left in regulation. The Aggies then went 9-of-12 from the free throw line to close out the win over the conference’s top team.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak for UC Davis and was its third straight on the road.
“With this environment and the stakes, coming in against a first-place team and on the heels of two setbacks,” said coach Gary Stewart, “it speaks volumes about our kids‘ character and fortitude.“
Joe Harden just missed his sixth double-double of the season, finishing with 18 points and eight rebounds. Dominic Calegari added 10 points to round out the Aggies in double-figure scoring.
Battling a right foot injury, Long Beach State’s Donovan Morris was limited to five points on 1-for-8 shooting in 13 minutes. Freshman forward T. J. Robinson picked up most of the scoring slack, netting a career-high 24 points to go with 12 rebounds.
Saturday – UC Riverside 58, UC Davis 53
Playing in front of a sell-out home crowd was unfamiliar territory for the Highlanders.
Seeing Kyle Austin and Aaron Scott so ineffective in the same game made it all even stranger.
But then, just when a wacky night at the Student Rec Center couldn’t get any wackier, it found a way.
UC Davis, the top free-throw shooting team in the country, had rare trouble from the charity stripe, missing six of 12 attempts in the second half to make for a fitting ending to an odd 58-53 loss to UC Riverside (13-9, 5-5).
“Our kids fought really hard,” Stewart said. “We just didn’t make shots, but I can’t fault our effort.“
The Aggies held Austin and Scott to six points each on a combined 4-for-21 shooting. It was the lowest scoring output for Austin (16.3 points per game) of the season, and Scott’s 1-for-9 shooting effort was the least efficient of the senior’s career.
UC Riverside had a strong defensive night of its own, holding UC Davis to a season-low 53 points on 35.4 percent shooting.
MICHAEL GEHLKEN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.