Teams: UC Davis at Long Beach State, at Cal State Northridge
Records: Aggies, 1-14 (0-3); 49ers, 10-6 (3-0); Matadors, 4-9 (1-2)
Where: Walter Pyramid — Long Beach Calif.; The Matadome — Northridge, Calif.
When: Thursday at 7:05 p.m.; Saturday at 7:00 p.m.
Who to watch: Sophomore forward Harrison DuPont is third on the team in scoring, averaging 8.8 points per game. He was the high scorer for the Aggies in their loss to UC Irvine last week.
The Midwest City, Okla. native is not worried about the Aggies’ recent struggles affecting the team in the long run.
“We’re just sticking to it,” DuPont said. “We’re trying to maintain the continuity [in the locker room]. We’re trying to stay positive, work every day, get better and see where that takes us.”
Did you know? In Division I men’s basketball, UC Davis is one of eight teams across the country with one or fewer wins.
The Aggies currently have the lowest RPI of all 344 teams in NCAA Division I men’s basketball.
Preview: For the Aggies, this weekend’s Big West Conference matchups will provide opportunities for both a great upset and the team’s second win of the season.
On the road against Long Beach State, UC Davis has nothing to lose. The 49ers stand in first in the Big West and after a strong non-conference showing earlier this season, are likely to make an NCAA tournament appearance in March.
Long Beach State had the most difficult non-conference schedule of any school in the country, playing perennial basketball powerhouses Pittsburgh, Louisville, Kansas and North Carolina.
The 49ers knocked off then-No. 9 Pittsburgh 86-76 in their second game of the season.
Now UC Davis has the opportunity to go into Walter Pyramid tonight and earn their signature win of the year.
“We’re excited,” head coach Jim Les said. “That’s why you come to be a Division I basketball player, to get a chance to play these types of teams on their home floor.
“I’m expecting our guys to be ready for the challenge.”
Long Beach State will provide a stiff test on both sides of the ball for UC Davis.
Defensively, the Aggies must find a way to contain Casper Ware, a 5’10” guard who leads the 49ers with 16.6 points per game. Bleacher Report named Ware the fourth-best mid-major point guard in the country and the senior has received national attention for his play this season.
DuPont says the Aggies will not change from their defensive strategy to stop one player.
“We stick to our [defensive] principles regardless of who we are playing,” DuPont said.
Offensively, the Aggies must find a way to score more points, having been held below 65 in their last seven games — a stretch dating back to the beginning of December.
Sophomore Josh Ritchart leads the team with 11.7 points per game and is the only UC Davis player averaging double digit scoring per game.
In the second game of the week, Saturday at Cal State Northridge, the Aggies will face a beatable Big West foe.
The Matadors have been held below 70 points in their last five games, and a strong defensive effort from UC Davis would put them well within reach of their second win of the season.
After losing to Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine by a combined three points last week, the stage is set for the Aggies to break their 11-game losing streak this weekend.
“We haven’t put a full 40 minutes together,” Les said. “We need to be able to sustain in order to come out on top and that’s what we’re striving to do.”