Both of the weekend’s games were virtually identical.
In each game, there was one team that never relinquished the lead. In each game Mark Payne, Joe Harden and Dominic Calegari all scored in double figures. In both games, the losers outrebounded the victors.
The only difference was that UC Davis won one and lost the other.
Thursday – UC Davis 83, Cal Poly 63
On Jan. 10, the Aggies went down to San Luis Obispo to play the Mustangs. They came back with a 72-69 loss.
Thursday night at the Pavilion, the rematch went much differently.
UC Davis never trailed as it beat Cal Poly 83-63, thanks in part to a 22-4 run in the second half.
Ahead 46-36 with 13 minutes left in the game, a speech from coach Gary Stewart coming out of a timeout kick-started the Aggies’ run.
“He just kind of lit a fire under us,” said Calegari. “It was a collective effort on defense and Coach letting us know what we needed to do to break away.”
After the timeout, Adam Malik hit a three-pointer to start the run on offense. Several missed shots by Cal Poly kept UC Davis going on defense. The run, which set the tone for the second half, led to a much different result than the previous game.
“We just felt like we shouldn’t have lost that game at all down [at Cal Poly],” Calegari said. “We had a solid lead at halftime and it just went the opposite way as tonight. We were just extremely confident that we could beat them.”
The Mustangs shot just 36 percent from the field for the game. The Aggies, meanwhile, made 50 percent of their buckets. UC Davis also won the turnover battle, losing possession just twice in the second half and eight times overall. The Mustangs had 19 turnovers, leading to 23 Aggie points.
Calegari led the Aggies with 20 points and three blocks. Harden chipped in with 19 points and eight rebounds. Payne added 10 points and seven assists.
Saturday – UC Santa Barbara 81, UC Davis 77
After losing to UCSB by 21 points in the Thunderdome on ESPNU in January, UC Davis was looking to return the favor with star player Mark Payne back on the floor.
The result was better, but not quite good enough as the Aggies fell 81-77 on Saturday.
The Gauchos, who made a total of six three-pointers the last time the teams faced each other, began the game 7-for-7 from long distance.
“The start of the game was the worst possible situation that we could be in,” Stewart said. “They kept making shots and putting us back on our heels. By the time we were able to wrestle them to the ground and try to get some momentum, we were fighting a double-figure deficit.”
Despite the lights-out shooting from UCSB, UC Davis was able to make a late charge.
Down by 19 with 3:39 left in regulation, the Aggies went on a 19-4 run to cut the deficit to four with 21 seconds left.
“We picked up the intensity on defense,” said Harden, who scored 19 points and had a team-high 12 rebounds and seven assists. “We just, started switching, getting into people and making them play faster than they wanted to.”
Stewart believes that had there been more time on the clock, the Aggies could have pulled out the victory.
“We’re going to play wire to wire,” Stewart said. “There is no quit in us. If the game was longer, who knows what would have happened.”
In response to the late charge by the Aggies, James Nunnally hit a pair of free throws to silence the crowd at the Pavilion for the final time.
RICHARD PROCTER and MARK LING can be reached at email@example.com.