No Mark Payne?
The Aggies (6-8, 2-0) did just fine without their leading scorer on Monday night, beating Cal State Northridge (4-9, 0-2) 85-73 for their second Big West Conference win in as many games.
“The guys came out with the attitude ‘we’re going to be fine,” said coach Gary Stewart. “That got us started out on the right foot.”
UC Davis wasted no time, building a 10-point lead in the first half. The Aggies used defense to fuel their offense, forcing 14 turnovers in the first half alone.
Of course, it helps to have Dominic Calegari, too. The senior had career-highs of 28 points and 11 rebounds to lead the team.
“He did everything,” Stewart said. “You can’t ask a guy to do more than that.”
The Aggies extended their lead after the break, using a 17-4 run six minutes into the second half to make the score 60-42 in their favor.
The Matadors would not get closer than nine points after that, thanks in part to their poor shooting.
Cal State Northridge shot just 2-for-17 from beyond the arc while UC Davis made 11-of-23 three-point attempts.
Calegari, who shot 3-of-5 from downtown, was praised by Stewart after the game.
“It’s not only the stats,” Stewart said. “It’s the intangibles. His leadership is outstanding. He talks to the other guys constantly. He talks more than Al Sharpton.”
That leadership was evident in Calegari’s performance Monday night.
“It was an unreal performance from the young guys,” Calegari said. “We had all the injuries at the beginning of the year which forced them to play a lot of minutes early on. That helped them grow and we knew it would be huge for us down the road. It just came through for us tonight.”
In place of Payne, junior Ryan Silva made his first career start and scored 17 points. Freshman Julian Welch added 10 points and a total of five Aggies scored in double figures.
The victory is the third straight for UC Davis and places it at the top of the Big West Conference.
RICHARD PROCTER can be reached at email@example.com.