Teams: UC Davis vs. Cal State Northridge; vs. Long Beach State
Records: Aggies, 1-21 (0-10); Matadors, 6-15 (2-8); 49ers, 17-6 (10-0)
Where: The Pavilion
When: Tonight at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 4 p.m.
Who to watch: Since the beginning of the preseason head coach Jim Les has preached that the Aggies play with a defense first mentality.
Despite his consistent message, Les has had trouble at times this season getting his players to commit to the defensive end of the floor.
He may have found an answer in 6’7” freshman forward J.T. Adenrele.
Though Adenrele has played sparingly this season, averaging just over 14 minutes per game, he has started in the last three games for UC Davis.
“I’ve been working hard on the defensive end and getting rebounds which is what Coach wants me to do,” the broad-shouldered 18-year-old said. “Rebound and play defense hard and let the rest come to me.”
“I’ve been doing a pretty good job of that in practice and it’s showed so [Coach has] given me the starts. Hopefully I can continue that success.”
Adenrele is averaging 4.3 points per game on 50 percent shooting and is tied with Josh Ritchart as the team’s leading block getter with 12 on the season.
Did you know? With 21 losses on the season and only one win against Division III UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis has the second longest active losing streak in the nation against NCAA Division I opponents at 22 games.
The Aggies are currently ranked last in the nation in RPI, a statistic based on a team’s record and strength of schedule.
Preview: UC Davis will have two more opportunities to pick up a win this weekend in the Pavilion, facing teams that are on opposite ends of the Big West Conference standings.
Tonight’s opponent, Cal State Northridge, sits just above the Aggies at the bottom of the Big West, while Saturday’s opponent, Long Beach State, is undefeated in the conference this season and likely heading to the NCAA Tournament in March.
If the Aggies want to get the win that has eluded them since mid-November, they must play a complete game for 40 minutes, something they have struggled with this season.
“I’ve told [the team] before, if games were 32, 34, or 35 minutes we’d have our share of wins,” Les said. “But it’s 40 minutes so we’ve got to get to where we play Aggie basketball for 40 minutes and then close out games and make the necessary plays to do so.”
UC Davis has lost five conference games this season by an average of less than three points.
In their last game against Cal State Northridge the Aggies led 71-60 with just over six minutes remaining before allowing the Matadors to go on a 16-0 run. UC Davis would ultimately lose 80-84.
As always with coach Les, the key to closing out games and earning a victory starts on the defensive end of the floor.
For success in this weekend’s matchups, Les pointed to the last time the Aggies played in the Pavilion.
“The last home game I thought our defense was as good as it was at any time and we still scored 39 points in the first half, which tells me that the formula works,” Les said. “The guys need to continue to buy into that.”
On Saturday against Long Beach State, it will take a supreme defensive effort to get past the best team in the conference.
The 49ers lead the Big West with a +13 scoring margin in conference play this season and also have the most stringent defense in the league, allowing only 61.7 points per game.
Long Beach State averages 75 points per game, compared to the just 60 for UC Davis.
As every college basketball fan knows, though, upsets do happen — especially in league play when the favored team is on the road.
Adenrele is ready to turn Davis into upset city.
“[We’ve got] nothing to lose,” he said. “We’re going to play as hard as we can; all out. We want to beat them, we know we can beat them [and] we just have to play well on the defensive end, rebound and play with intensity.
“We have to be the more intense team.”
— Caelum Shove