After beating the past two Big West Conference champions at the Pavilion to open league play, the expectation for the Aggies was to get at least one win on its Central Coast road trip.
Those expectations weren’t fulfilled as UC Davis dropped both games on a road swing that included games at UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly.
On Friday, a depleted Aggie team hung with the Gauchos for the first 32 minutes of play but faltered in the final eight to lose the game.
In the final contest of the two-game trip, the Aggies let a second-half lead get away as they fell to the Mustangs at Mott Gym.
Friday – UC Santa Barbara 69, UC Davis 47
The Aggies matched the Gauchos basket for basket in the first half.
The second half was a different story.
Both teams shot 10-of-23 from the floor which led to a 26-26 tie after the first 20 minutes of play.
After halftime, UCSB shot 72 percent from the field, resulting in a decisive 23-7 run to end the game.
“We just let down a little bit on the accelerator,” said coach Gary Stewart. “You can’t do that on the road against [UCSB] in that type of environment, and it cost us dearly.”
After closing to within 45-40 with 8:32 left in the game, the Aggies went cold while the hot-shooting Gauchos pulled away. UC Davis was held without a field goal over the final 6:55.
To add injury to insult, Ryan Silva, starting in place of the injured Mark Payne, left the game with a wrist injury in the first half and did not return.
Julian Welch led the Aggies with 12 points while Dominic Calegari and Joe Harden each scored 11.
Sunday – Cal Poly 72, UC Davis 69
Julian Welch picked up right where he left off.
Unfortunately for the Aggies, so did their second-half defense.
Welch scored a career-high 25 points, but the UC Davis defense blew a nine-point lead in the second period to ultimately fall 72-69.
“We didn’t get it done,” Stewart said. “We had a lead at halftime, but our defense failed us in the second half. We gave up 44 points in the second half and anytime you do that to a team, whether you are on the road or at home, that almost always tends to be detrimental.”
Despite hitting three treys in the final 25 seconds, UC Davis would get no closer than 70-69 with less than a second left in the game.
The Aggies played without leading scorer Payne for the third consecutive game and Silva sat out with an injury he suffered against the Gauchos.
The injuries, which have troubled the Aggies all season, have meant that other players have needed step up and play more minutes.
“I think we’re getting worn down a little bit,” Stewart said. “It’s been problematic for us. We’ve just got to close the game out. We’ve shown that we’re capable of doing it, we just have to extend it to more minutes.”
Welch led the Aggies in scoring for the second straight game, scoring 25 points to go with four rebounds and five assists. The assists in particular got Stewart’s attention.
“Julian was terrific,” Stewart said. “Not just the 25 points, but the five assists. He shared the ball, was aggressive and put it in the interior. That’s kind of what we saw in him when we recruited him. We expect those type of nights.”
The Aggies return home this week to face UC Irvine at the Pavilion on Thursday at 7 p.m.
RICHARD PROCTER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.