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Davis, California

Friday, February 23, 2024

Aggies finish tourney strong

Three games into the season, coach Gary Stewart likes what he sees.

UC Davis played well for stretches during all of their games at the Basketball Travelers Tip-Off in Eugene, Oregon.

“We’re awfully young, and it’s showing,” Stewart said. “What I really like is we’re trying to do the right thing. We had some really good moments when we played very well. That’s part of why I’m very excited about this team. We’re going to get better and better. There’s no question about that.”

After losing their first two games, the Aggies beat Winston-Salem State to finish 1-2 heading into their home opener against UC Santa Cruz Thursday at 8 p.m.

Friday – Colorado State 91, UC Davis 73

Sometimes a player is in a groove and shoots lights out for an entire game.

Unfortunately for the Aggies, the entire Colorado State team was doing just that Friday afternoon as it shot 15 for 24 from three-point range.

“Tonight was a coach’s nightmare in relation to their ability to shoot threes,” Steward said.

After allowing the Rams to build an early lead, the Aggies went on a 13-2 run to make the score 24-18. UC Davis then allowed Colorado State to put together a 15-4 run of its own.

“That’s our challenge,” Stewart said. “To play better for longer periods of time.”

A three-pointer by forward Joe Harden made the score 74-67 with just under six minutes left, but the Aggies would get no closer as the Rams went on a 17-6 run to end the game.

Mark Payne led the Aggies with 19 points to go with seven assists and five rebounds. Harden added 14 points and Ryan Sypkens had 11 points off the bench.

Saturday – Oregon 95, UC Davis 64

Entering Saturday’s contest with Oregon, UC Davis was not about to repeat the mistakes of their previous game.

The Aggies held the Ducks to 38 percent shooting from three-point range but this time had their share of troubles on the boards.

Oregon had as many offensive rebounds (14) as UC Davis had in the entire game while accumulating 42 overall.

“Oregon was better on the interior,” Stewart said.

The Aggies were able to keep the game close for much of the first half, pulling to within 16-12 on a Payne jumper. The Ducks responded with an 11-2 run and the Aggies were unable to trim the lead to less than 12 for the remainder of the game.

Dominic Calegari led UC Davis with 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting.

Sunday – UC Davis 99, Winston-Salem State 79

The Aggies won’t win any style points for their first victory of the season, but they aren’t complaining.

In a game that featured 83 free throws, 62 fouls and 41 turnovers UC Davis had something Winston-Salem State didn’t – Joe Harden.

Harden finished with a career-high 26 points while also pulling in 12 rebounds for his second double-double of the tournament. For his performance, Harden was selected to the All-Tournament team. He was also named Co-Big West Conference Player of the Week as he averaged 17.3 points and nine rebounds per contest during the three-game stretch.

“Joe was sensational,” Stewart said. “He was a man among boys.”

Payne added 21 points and seven assists of his own as the Aggies shot 59 percent from the field. The Aggie bench contributed a season-high 24 points in the victory.

Despite losing twice this weekend, Stewart still sees the positives in his team’s play while also realizing that adjustments need to be made.

“What I saw in those games was encouraging,” Stewart said. “It’s going to take some time to get acclimated.”

RICHARD PROCTER can be reached at sports@theaggie.org.


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