42.3 F

Davis, California

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Bitten back

Gone with the Wind won the Oscar for Best Picture.

The United States hadn’t entered World War II.

Martha Stewart hadn’t been born yet.

All these things were true the last time the UC Davis men’s basketball team beat Pacific.

That was 1940.

This is now.

UC Davis pulled out a 62-59 victory over Pacific at the Pavilion, ending a 49-game, 70-year losing streak.

The game got off to a back-and-forth start with eight lead changes or ties in the first eight minutes, finally settling down with the Tigers taking a 13-10 lead on a three-pointer by Demetrece Young with 12:46 left to play.

The lead grew to 21-12 when UC Davis headed into a timeout with 7:47 left in the first half.

“We all came together and said ‘We’ve gotta box out,'” said guard Julian Welch.

The Aggies came out of the timeout and finished the half on a 15-5 run with 10 points coming from Welch.

“We just focused on defense,” Welch said. “Game preparation and everything was geared on defense, heart and rebounding. We weren’t concerned about offense at all.”

The Aggies held the Tigers to 2-of-10 shooting from the field and forced four turnovers over the final eight minutes before the break.

“At that point I was like ‘We’ve got a great shot,'” Calegari said. “‘We can play way better.’ That halftime locker room was the most alive I’ve ever seen it. Everyone was talking. It was fun. It was a good energy.”

Although the Aggies felt confident, the Tigers wouldn’t go away easily. No team led by more than five in the second half as both teams took turns scoring in bursts. After using a 6-0 run to pull ahead 37-32, Pacific then allowed the Aggies to go on an 11-4 run and regain the lead.

Two free throws by Sam Willard gave Pacific a 59-58 advantage with 1:31 to go. Calegari answered on the other end, collecting an offensive rebound and sinking two free throws of his own to give the Aggies a 59-58 lead with 1:06 to play.

Three free throws by Joe Harden over the next 54 seconds stretched the margin to 62-58 with 12 seconds left in the game.

Down by four, the Tigers tried for a three point shot with two seconds remaining. Welch fouled Allen Huddleston, who was awarded with three shots from the charity stripe. Huddleston missed two of the free throws and Young clanged a three-pointer at the buzzer, sealing the win for the Aggies.

“It was an old fashioned slug fest,” said coach Gary Stewart. “That’s what I’m most proud of, it was a defensive deal.”

The Aggies held the Tigers to 40 percent shooting overall and 21 percent from beyond the arc while forcing 11 turnovers. Both Harden and Todd Lowenthal had three steals while Calegari provided an interior presence on defense with three blocks.

Calegari will become the first player in the program to have beaten every Big West Conference team.

“This is by far the best athletic moment I’ve had in my life,” Calegari said. “This is why I play team sports. It’s just the most amazing feeling I could ever ask for.”

The game was played before the Pavilion’s largest crowd of the season, 2,878, many of whom stormed the court to celebrate after the final buzzer.

“There’s a huge energy from the crowd,” Calegari said. “It was the loudest I’ve ever experienced it. This place was rockin’. That’s the kind of energy we feed off of.”

UC Davis traveled to UC Irvine following their historic win.

The Anteaters overcame a strong three-point shooting performance by the Aggies to come away with the 69-67 win at the Bren Center, putting the game away with a 9-0 run over the final three minutes.

The Aggies are now 6-6 in Big West Conference play, putting them in a three-way tie for fourth place with Long Beach State and Cal Poly.

UC Davis will play at Seattle tonight at 7 p.m.

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


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