Teams: UC Davis at UC Santa Barbara; Cal Poly
Records: Aggies (6-8, 2-0); Gauchos (6-6, 1-1); Mustangs (4-8, 1-0)
Where: The Thunderdome – Santa Barbara, Calif.; Mott Gym – San Luis Obispo, Calif.
When: Friday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m.
Who to watch: When guard Mark Payne went down with a shoulder injury, the Aggies looked to Ryan Silva to fill the gap.
He didn’t disappoint.
Starting in place of Payne against Cal State Northridge on Monday, Silva scored 17 points on 4-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc and 5-of-6 shooting from the free throw line.
The Aggies will be in good shape against the Gauchos on Friday if Silva can continue his hot shooting from downtown.
Despite missing seven games due to injury, Silva is shooting 45 percent on three point attempts (11-of-23) this season.
It’s not just the points that Silva provides, though. It’s when he provides them. Against Cal State Fullerton, Silva came off the bench and hit back-to-back treys to stop a Titans rally dead in its tracks.
“You don’t win a game like tonight without a Ryan Silva,” said coach Gary Stewart after the game.
Did you know? All of Silva’s scoring this season has come from beyond the arc or at the charity stripe.
Preview: If one more Aggie gets bitten by the injury bug, the team may need to call an exterminator.
Five Aggies – Joe Harden, Todd Lowenthal, Payne, Jacob Ranger and Silva – have all missed games due to injury. Even Stewart missed a game (the first in his coaching career) with the flu. The lack of bodies has put pressure on UC Davis not just in games, but in practice as well.
“At one point, we had only had five healthy bodies in December,” Stewart said. “We haven’t been able to play five-on-five in practice.”
In addition to injuries, freshman DeAndre Medlock has been declared academically ineligible for the quarter.
Despite being shorthanded for much of the season, the Aggies have opened Big West Conference play by winning their first two games, putting them on top of the conference. UC Davis hopes to keep its current three-game winning streak going as the team hits the road this weekend to play UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly.
The Gauchos are led by sophomore guard Orlando Johnson, who Stewart called one of the best players in the conference. Johnson is currently averaging 16.8 points per game and shooting 45 percent from the floor. The Aggies will have to widen their defensive focus beyond just Johnson, however.
“They’re 11 and 12 players deep,” Stewart said. “They get points from a lot of players.”
The Mustangs are 1-0 in Big West action and look to guard Lorenzo Keeler and center Will Donahue (14.7 and 11.8 points per game, respectively) on offense.
– Richard Procter