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Monday, October 18, 2021

Column: 5-second game

Count to five…

Now try to do something productive, like homework or writing a paper in that same time span. Pretty difficult, right?

Imagine trying to alter the path of a season and give hope to a university in five seconds. Damn near impossible.

That’s exactly what happened in the men’s basketball game on Saturday.

During the most exciting five seconds in UC Davis basketball history, the Aggies lost a lead, got the advantage and held its collective breath as a last-second desperation shot floated through the Pavilion.

Every soul watching Saturday’s thrilling game went from excited to heartbroken to ecstatic to relieved in five seconds. And that is no exaggeration.

Let me fully explain what happened. In double overtime, mind you, UC Davis had a slim one-point lead over UC Irvine with 10 seconds left. Anteater guard Patrick Rembert drove to the hoop and put his squad on top with three seconds remaining.

At this point all the air was sucked out of the Pavilion. But without missing a beat, junior Eddie Miller does his best Randy Wright impersonation and heaves an absolute perfect pass to a wide open Mark Payne who laid it in to put the Aggies back on top.

At this point, the Pavilion got the loudest it’s been in a long while. It took a lot of self control for me not to jump out of my seat and scream. But the game wasn’t over.

Anteater Chris McNealy had one last shot. A three-quarter court heave that barely, and I mean barely missed going in. The Aggie Pack stormed the court as the sure-fire classic entered the record books. This game will go down as one of the greatest UC Davis basketball games ever.

Now I could share the opinions of Miller, Payne and coach Gary Stewart with you. But I guarantee Grace Sprague will do the same in a much better manner.

Instead, I’ll look at what those five seconds could mean for UC Davis down the road.

Those five seconds could make this season. The top eight of nine teams in the Big West Conference make the postseason tournament with a chance to make the big dance.

The runaway leader in the Big West is Long Beach State (who lost to the same UC Irvine team UC Davis beat). From there, just three games separate second place from last place in the conference, so needless to say, this is anyone’s to win.

These five seconds propelled the Aggies back in the race. It will give UC Davis confidence entering the second half of conference play. The Aggies battled back from an 18-point deficit against a streaking UC Irvine team.

They showed tenacity until McNealy’s desperation shot fell harmlessly to Hamilton Court. They wouldn’t let a couple controversial calls get into their head. They didn’t panic when senior team leader Joe Harden fouled out in the first overtime. They did, however, play a tremendous game.

You might be confused how my opinion of the men’s basketball team has changed in just a week. Last Monday, I bashed UC Davis and its abysmal performance against Pacific. This week, I’m praising them and throwing them into the Big West race.

I’m a little confused by this change, too. But that’s what one amazing game can do. Let me rephrase that – amazing five seconds.

It’s crazy what a sequence of plays can do. I like to call it a perfect combination of random events. What if Payne didn’t sneak behind the Anteater defense? What if Miller didn’t see Payne and throw an absolute perfect pass? What if McNealy’s shot went in?

The answer is simple – the Aggies wouldn’t have won and the rest of their season would have been radically different.

A game and a season went down to five seconds.

Listening to Payne, Miller and Stewart discuss their emotions in the final seconds reminded me of my feelings in game 4 of the NLDS between the Giants and Braves. I went from excited to crying to numb to pessimistic to optimistic to amazed to screaming in a span of five minutes during that game. Kind of like what happened Saturday night, except in five seconds. To talk Aggie basketball, e-mail JASON ALPERT at sports@theaggie.org.

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