Team tied for third in Big West with Pacific
Now, years removed from when their careers ended, look at what they helped create.
With its Wednesday win over Cal Poly, UC Davis clinched a berth to next month’s Big West Conference Tournament in Anaheim. It will be the program’s first postseason appearance since the university began a four-year transition from Division II to Division I in 2003.
“Four years of parking the car on the street, looking at all the guys go through the gates and now we get our opportunity,” Stewart said. “For the first time in school history, we’re on our way to Anaheim, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it.“
The only thing left to decide is their tournament seed.
At 7-6, the Aggies are tied for third place in the Big West with Pacific, whom they face Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Stockton. Long Beach State and Cal State Northridge are tied for first at 8-4.
After Pacific, UC Davis will play at UC Santa Barbara before its regular season finale on Mar. 5 against Northridge at the Pavilion.
“We’ve got three games left in conference – three big games,” Dominic Calegari said. “If we win them, we have a strong chance of coming out first in the league. We’ve just got to stay positive. … Keep moving forward.“
Wednesday – UC Davis 75, Cal Poly 73
One by one, Chaz Thomas let every opportunity to beat the Aggies pass him by.
With the ball in his hands, Vince Oliver wasn’t about to return the favor.
Oliver hit the game-winning three-pointer from the left corner with four seconds remaining, lifting UC Davis to a 75-73 win at Mott Gym. The senior’s clutch shot capped the Aggies‘ comeback from a 14-point second-half deficit.
“He hit a big shot – what a huge shot,” Stewart said. “He was clearly the best player on the floor the last five minutes of the game, and who better than to put the ball in his hands at the end?”
After playing the hero in Cal Poly’s win over UC Davis last month, Thomas was anything but the second time around.
The senior guard’s only basket came in the second half on a breakaway layup. Other than that, Thomas was 0-for-5 from the floor and 0-for-6 from the free throw line, including two misses inside the final second and four misses in the final 1:01. Thomas entered the game as a 72.7 free throw shooter.
Oliver finished with a team-high 19 points. The figure boosted his career total to 1,446 points, surpassing Mark Olson (1,440) for third all-time on the school’s scoring list.
Saturday – Fresno State 71, UC Davis 70
Gary Stewart knows his team’s defense is still a work in progress, but that doesn’t mean he’s willing to turn his back on it.
Rather than send the Bulldogs‘ struggling free throw shooters to the line in the final minutes, Stewart chose to play it out.
Sylvester Seay made a three-pointer with 1:09 to tie the game at 69-69, and Bryce Cartwright scored the decisive bucket in transition off a Seay steal, as Fresno State pulled off a 71-70 nonconference win over UC Davis on Saturday.
“I think you do a disservice to your defense when you preach defense for months upon months, and you’re teaching defense and you’re coaching defense, and then, at the time you need a stop, you say, ‘No, I don’t believe you can get a stop, so let’s foul,‘” Stewart said. “I’m of the mindset that if you’re going to be a good defensive team, then we need to get stops at the most crucial part of the game. Tonight, it didn’t work out for us.“
Fighting the flu, Joe Harden made his first eight shots en route to a career-high 25 points. Dominic Calegari scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and had six rebounds.
Seay led Fresno State with 20 points, and Mychal Ladd had a double-double with 14 points and 10 boards. The Bulldogs shot 8-for-19 from the free throw line.
The contest was part of the ESPNU BracketBusters, an annual event that pits nonconference competition against each other. The Aggies have competed in it each of the past two years.
MICHAEL GEHLKEN can be reached at email@example.com.