Making this past weekend’s losses at UC Irvine and UC Riverside more painful for Aggie fans is the fact the UC Davis held a second-half lead in both of the contests.
The two losses drop UC Davis’ record to 1-21 overall, 0-10 in Big West Conference play.
Try as they might, the Aggies seem incapable of closing out a game down the stretch.
Head Coach Jim Les was pleased with the team’s effort in Thursday’s loss at UC Irvine, but following Saturday’s collapse against UC Riverside the coach laid into his team during his post-game radio interview.
The Aggies gave up a 14-0 run to the Highlanders in the first half to relinquish their early lead and then gave away the lead again in the second half during a six-minute scoreless drought.
All of this was despite the fact that UC Riverside was playing without its best player and leading scorer Phil Martin, who was out for personal reasons.
“For the scholarships they’re given they owe this program a lot more effort and intensity and urgency,” Les told KSAC’s Scott Marsh after the game. “If they won’t then we’ll find some other guys that will appreciate being here and give the effort.”
“I don’t ask [my players] to play a perfect game,” Les continued. “They’re going to make mistakes, they’re going to miss shots. [But] I’ll be darned if guys are just going to come out here and just show up.
“Maybe they can’t handle the pressure of stepping out here and playing Division I basketball. You need to be a competitor. Right now the only intensity comes from the bench and the coaching staff and that doesn’t quite cut it.”
“I’m disappointed from every guy that stepped out here to play tonight,” Les continued. “It’s certainly not the culture that I want to create around this program and that culture is going to change and either these guys will change to meet it or we’ll do what we have to do.”
Thursday — UC Irvine68, UC Davis 61
Unlike in their previous game against UC Irvine this season, the Aggies came out strong against the Anteaters on Thursday in the Bren Events Center.
After scoring the first five points of the game UC Davis gave up the lead but hung around throughout the first half and went into the break trailing 28-32.
A three pointer by Josh Ritchart, one of this four on the night, tied the game at 36 with just over 16 minutes to play.
Two free throws by Paolo Mancasola put the Aggies up 52-48 with six minutes to play, but from there the team would watch the game slip away from them, as they have many times already this season.
“Our game plan was to give ourselves a chance to win with five minutes to go and the guys did that,” Les said. “The last two ball games have been much better in terms of effort, energy and intensity.
“No we’ve just got to close out a game, and what that entails is making plays down the stretch.”
Saturday — UC Riverside 59, UC Davis 54
While the Aggies were again only a few plays away from earning their second win of the season at UC Riverside, Les did not praise his team’s effort or intensity after Saturday’s contest.
On the road against the Highlanders, UC Davis was able to win the rebounding battle but failed in other aspects of the game, particularly turnovers and points in the paint.
UC Riverside had 34 points in the paint to the Aggies 12 while they also won the turnover battle with only 10 to the Aggies 20.
On Sunday morning Les did not back away from his post-game comments and continued to be disappointed in his team’s effort, especially on the defensive end of the floor.
“The first three of four minutes the defensive intensity wasn’t there and we had to go to the bench,” Les said. “The bench came in and did a nice job, we got out to an 18-9 lead and went back to some of those starters and fell right back in the hole.
“[There were] too many breakdowns,” Les continued. “Too many mental concentration lapses that on the road you can’t have. Some of our more veteran players, some of our more talented players, that can’t happen.”
A high point for UC Davis this weekend was Ritchart’s 21 points against UC Riverside. Ritchart made a career high tying five three pointers and also had eight rebounds. He was the only Aggie to score in double digits.
UC Davis will return to action Thursday against Cal State Northridge.
CAELUM SHOVE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.