Though St. Patrick’s Day is still some time away, the Aggies seemed to have luck on their side early in their week’s slate of games.
From a Joe Harden half-court buzzer beater at Seattle to an ambitious halftime score against Hawai’i, UC Davis had flashes of fortune in two non-conference match-ups.
Unfortunately for UC Davis, the Rainbow Warriors prevented the Aggies from reaching the pot of gold on Saturday.
After a loss in Seattle, UC Davis came out flat at the Pavilion for an 83-69 ESPN BracketBuster loss against Hawai’i.
According to coach Gary Stewart, however, it just so happened that UC Davis was competitive for the first 20 minutes.
“We felt like we were lucky to be down one at halftime,” said coach Gary Stewart. “We hadn’t shot any free throws, we didn’t have any offensive rebounds and yet, we had 37 points on the board.”
With one minute left in the first frame, UC Davis closed a 12-point deficit to take the 37-36 lead.
The key to the first-half success was UC Davis’ ability to prevent offensive rebounds for Hawai’i, Stewart said. The Aggies allowed just one offensive board before the intermission.
The Aggies’ luck was tried in the second frame, when the Rainbow Warriors exploded for 10 points in just two minutes to start the half and never looked back.
When asked about his team’s downhill slide, Stewart proposed a theory of two competing tempos on each end of the court.
“There’s offensive rhythm but there’s also there’s defensive rhythm,” Stewart said. “We didn’t have defensive rhythm. We were back on our heels in relationship to where they were putting the ball. They made us think instead of react.”
The Aggies were working with a new zone defense, and according to Harden, they just got lax.
“We lost track of where guys were in the zone,” Harden said. “It’s paying attention to details, sticking to the game plan and [not getting] stagnant in the zone. Hawai’i got more aggressive and we kind of slowed down, which is the exact opposite of what we wanted to do.”
UC Davis’ new zone strategy played a large part in their lack of defensive flow, making it difficult to guard guys like Hawai’i’s Zane Johnson.
The Aggies said the 6-foot-6 guard was simply unbeatable.
“He’s just a really great shooter,” said freshman Josh Ritchart. “He’s got some good size to him, and he can step out to NBA range too. He was able to go off screens and hit it and he was a hard player to stop.”
Johnson put together an 11-of-17 performance from the field, including 9-of-15 from beyond the arc for 32 total points.
Harden led the Aggies offensively, shooting 6-for-13 from the field and 6-of-8 from the foul line for 19 points.
Saturday’s game won’t be the last time that UC Davis faces Hawai’i.
The Rainbow Warriors, currently a member of the Western Athletic Conference, will be joining the Big West Conference in the 2012-2013 campaign.
So despite the loss, the Aggies feel lucky to have played the Rainbow Warriors, as this will be an opportunity to benefit the future of the program.
“It gives us an advantage over the rest of the Big West teams who haven’t faced them,” Ritchart said. “It’s good to see what kind of players we’re going to be facing in the future. The kind of program, the style they run.”
GRACE SPRAGUE can be reached at email@example.com.
Correction – Feb. 23, 2011: The UC Davis men’s basketball team beat Seattle on Feb. 15.