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Davis, California

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Men’s Basketball

Event: Big West Conference Tournament

Teams: UC Davis vs. TBA

Records: Aggies, 13-17 (8-8)

When: Tonight at 8:30 p.m.

Where: The Anaheim Convention Center – Anaheim, Calif.

Who to watch: How far the Aggies advance in the Big West Tournament will be determined by several factors.

One of the biggest is Mark Payne.

“Mark is a very versatile guy and makes us better,” said coach Gary Stewart. “We can play a bit differently when he’s on the floor.”

In his junior season, Payne has averaged 16.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.1 steals per game while shooting 52 percent from the floor and 46 percent from beyond the arc.

Stewart thinks there’s room for improvement.

“I think he can play a lot better,” Stewart said. “He’s still trying to get his timing and rhythm back.”

Payne missed seven games this season due to a shoulder injury and illness.

Did you know? No team seeded lower than third has ever won the Big West Tournament. The Aggies are the fourth seed.

Preview: Five months and 30 games after their regular season started, the Aggies’ second season begins.

After beating Cal State Fullerton in overtime on Saturday – and thanks to a Cal Poly loss – the Aggies secured a first-round bye to the Big West Tournament. Despite the bye, the Aggies will have their hands full.

“We’ve got a short roster with several injuries,” Stewart said. “It’s a daunting task to win three games in three days, let alone four.”

The last time the Aggies played three games in three days was at the very beginning of the season as part of the Basketball Travelers Tip-off Tourney.

They went 1-2, dropping their first two games to Colorado State and tournament host Oregon before beating Winston-Salem State. The Aggies are 2-6 in conference road games.

UC Davis begins its tournament life tonight against the highest remaining seed – either Cal State Fullerton, Cal Poly or UC Irvine. If the Aggies win, they will advance to the semifinals and play either UC Santa Barbara or Pacific with a spot in the title game on the line. The winner of the championship on Saturday will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Stewart knows his team will have to improve if it wants to get that far.

“We’re going to have to grab more defensive rebounds if we want to get past Thursday,” he said. “We have to do a little bit better in all areas. We’ve got to play and execute better in the last four minutes.”

– Richard Procter


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