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Monday, October 18, 2021

Men’s basketball: Aggies salt Slugs before being bucked by Broncos

After splitting the season-opening series, coach Gary Stewart is hopeful for improved play but optimistic about UC Davis’ potential.

“To be successful, we have to be a cohesive unit and we’re just not there yet,” Stewart said. “It’s a work in progress, and we remain confident that we’ll get it, hopefully sooner than later.”

UC Davis men’s basketball did what it needed to do against a weaker opponent in UC Santa Cruz. Yet, it couldn’t put enough points on the board against Boise State.

With the split series, UC Davis moved to 1-4 on the season.

Wednesday – UC Davis 70, UC Santa Cruz 49

One Aggie goal going into the home opener was to avoid falling into an early deficit. Stewart had a game plan to do so and was pleased with the way it unfolded.

UC Davis jumped out to a 6-0 lead and never looked back.

“I thought we had a much better start than we have had in relation to our concentration and our energy,” Stewart said. “In the first half we were able to sustain a defensive effort. 

“We wanted to put the ball in the interior and pound the backboard and we were able to do some of those things [against UC Santa Cruz].”

Senior Joe Harden found comfort at the Pavilion, recording his second double-double in as many games with 16 points and 11 boards.

“It was great to be home,” Harden said. “We’re trying to create a home court advantage where we don’t have to lose any games here. The Aggie Pack was great.”

Harden was pleased to snap a three-game losing streak that began the previous weekend.

“We definitely needed the win,” he said. “We’re excited, we need to get some confidence and get this thing rolling.”

Sunday – Boise State 67, UC Davis 47

Sunday’s loss to Boise State was not due to a lack of effort, Stewart said. According to the coach, it was an inability of the offense to execute.

“There was tremendous offensive frustration,” said Stewart. “We were turning the ball over at an alarming rate.  We’re missing shots, layups and wide-open threes.”

The Aggies shot 31.6 percent from the field in the second half – the Broncos shot double that in the same frame.

“That frustration manifested itself in a negative way defensively,” Stewart said. “It’s not for lack of effort on our guys.  It’s almost as if there was a lid on the basket.”

Boise State broke away in the second half, scoring 12 unanswered points in a four-minute stretch. Senior guard Mark Payne put the Aggies back on the board with a pair of free throws.

The Broncos would continue to control the game, exploding with five more baskets and taking the eventual 67-47 win.

Harden led the Aggie offense with 15 points, followed closely by Payne, who racked up 12.

Stewart believes the whole squad has potential to contribute more points to the scoreboard.

“The offense has to come from the entire team,” Stewart said.  “We’ve got some people who are capable of making shots and we’ve got to continue to work hard to get really quality shots.  We have confidence in the people, that when they are in those areas, they are going to make them.”

UC Davis will take on Sacramento State in the hardwood edition of the Causeway Classic tonight. Tip-off is set for 7:05 p.m. at Hornet Gym.

GRACE SPRAGUE can be reached at sports@theaggie.org.

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