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Davis, California

Monday, May 27, 2024

Aggies have nowhere to go but up

Blame it on fatigue. Blame it on lingering emotions from a disheartening loss to UC Santa Barbara last week.

But certain Aggies attribute the weekend losses to Long Beach State and Pacific simply to a lack of effort.

“[The 49er loss] could have been a series of things,” said freshman Josh Ritchart. “But in the end, we just have to be able to come with the energy we need because at this level, if you don’t bring it, it gets handed to you out there.”

UC Davis turned its game around Saturday at Pacific, taking the rival Tigers to the final seconds of the contest.

Despite two losses on the weekend, coach Gary Stewart says some things are looking up for the Aggies.

“I’m really proud of our kids in terms of their resiliency,” Stewart said. “Saturday was so disappointing but in some ways it has to be encouraging. We still have time to get back and shore some things up.”

Thursday – Long Beach State 93, UC Davis 69

Simply put, the 49ers stumped the Aggies.

Long Beach State shot 65 percent from the field and out-rebounded UC Davis 31-21 en route to the 24-point rout.

“[The 49ers] did anything they wanted to do,” Stewart said. “They were assertive and aggressive at the start. They scored in transition, they scored from the perimeter and they scored on the interior. You have to give them credit.”

By the end of the first half, four Long Beach State players had already reached double figures.

According to Ritchart, UC Davis’ poor defensive play translated to offensive struggles.

At the intermission, Long Beach State had a 27-point advantage, and in the second frame, proved unstoppable.

“We knew they were going to be good,” said senior Todd Lowenthal. “We didn’t do what we needed to do as far as defense, closing out on shooters early, or rebounding.”

Mark Payne led the Aggies with 13 points and four assists on a 5-of-8 performance from the field.

Joe Harden managed 10 minutes of play, but a persistent nose injury from the Feb. 5 game against the Gauchos rendered him unable to finish.

“With Joe out, that really hurts us,” Lowenthal said. “He does everything for us. He’s a warrior and everything he does on the court helps us win.”

Saturday – Pacific 70, UC Davis 66

With Harden ready to roll on Saturday, the Aggies put up a fight at the Tigers’ den.

UC Davis led by two at halftime, and maintained a six-point advantage for several minutes in the second frame.

Unfortunately for the Aggies, the result was another heart-breaking loss on the road.

After six ties and 14 lead changes throughout the game, Pacific made a late run in the second half. The Tigers closed it out shooting 6-of-6 from the foul line in the final 20 seconds to seal the victory.

Harden and Ritchart tallied 17 points apiece – Ritchart, shooting 6-of-6 from the field and a perfect 5-of-5 from beyond the arc.

Stewart was impressed with the shots, but disappointed with eight turnovers in the second half alone.

“We shot the ball extremely well,” Stewart said, “but we didn’t take care of the ball well enough in the second half to get enough attempts.”

The Aggies remain in last place in conference, one spot shy of making the Big West Tournament in less than a month.

Even so, Stewart isn’t concerned with the Aggies’ spot at the bottom of the league.

“We’ve got a nice situation set up for us now,” Stewart said. “We have the two games next week that we can use to make some adjustments. Then we got some very important games coming up. We have to take care of business, but it’s exciting because we have some things to play for.”

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


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