The UC Davis men’s basketball team won its first game since Nov. 15 this past Thursday in the Pavilion, beating Cal State Northridge 79-71.
The win stopped an 18-game losing streak and was the team’s first against a Big West Conference opponent this year.
“Finally,” said senior guard Eddie Miller, slumping into his chair in relief. “[It’s] long awaited and it feels great. That was quite a team effort; everybody stepped up and made plays.”
Head coach Jim Les agreed that it was the team’s effort that led them to victory.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this group,” Les said. “They’ve been resilient through some unbelievable adversity and continued to fight and progress and get better.
“We had a group that played a ton of minutes, they were tired and they just battled and gutted out an unbelievable win so I’m really proud of them. [We had] so many contributions from so many different places.”
The biggest contribution for UC Davis in its win over Cal State Northridge came from Miller, who scored a game-high 24 points and recorded 6 rebounds in 29 minutes of play.
Les had challenged Miller after the team’s last loss at Riverside, and reserved special praise for the former California player after Thursday’s game.
“I thought Eddie was huge tonight,” Les said. “Our senior strapped us on his back and made huge plays for us on both ends of the floor.”
The highlight of the game came when Miller caught the ball in the left corner and exploded past his defender and down the baseline before rising up for the one handed slam.
The play brought the Pavilion to its feet, and an Aggie victory kept the fans cheering throughout.
Thursday — UC Davis 79, Cal State Northridge 71
Like so many other Big West Conference games this season, Thursday’s contest came down to the final possessions.
However for the first time this year, the Aggies were able to close it out.
UC Davis led for a majority of the second half before Northridge tied it at 65-65 with six and a half minutes remaining. After another layup the visitors took the lead and it looked like the Aggies could be headed for another late collapse.
Not this time.
Back-to-back threes by Tyler Les and Paolo Mancasola put the Aggies up two before two made free throws from Josh Ritchart extended the lead to four.
UC Davis would ride it out at the free throw line before finishing nine point victors.
Saturday — Long Beach State 89, UC Davis 69
The winning feeling would not last long, as the league leading 49ers came into the Pavilion on Saturday afternoon and dominated the Aggies.
The bigger and more athletic Long Beach State team finished with 50 points in the paint, compared to just 16 for UC Davis.
The Aggies were outrebounded 42-26 and committed 12 turnovers compared to just eight for Long beach State. The 49ers also had 24 assists and shot 51.5 percent from the field.
“Success leaves clues,” Les said he told his players after the game. “[Long Beach State] is a very successful team for a lot of good reasons and they leave clues all over the stat sheet.
“Early on their defensive intensity and pressure bothered us.”
Despite the early pressure from the 49ers, UC Davis held tough and was down only two after eight minutes of play.
From there Long Beach State went on a 14-2 run over the next six minutes to put the game out of reach, as they eventually took a 46-24 lead into halftime.
The Aggies made some adjustments in the second frame and were able to cut the deficit, but ultimately could not close the gap. The team shot 60 percent from three in the second period, a big improvement over the 27 percent they shot in the first half.
Throughout the game Ritchart was the go to man for the Aggies on offense. The 6’9” sophomore finished with 24 points on 15 of 29 shooting, but only had one rebound.
“It’s a team that shows us ultimately where we want to be,” Ritchart said afterward. “How to play together as a team, it’s a good example of where we want to be and what we aspire to.”
The Aggies will have a chance to get back to their recent winning ways this Tuesday when local rival Pacific comes to the Pavilion.
It will be a tough test for UC Davis, which lost 48-64 when it played at Pacific earlier this season.
CAELUM SHOVE can be reached at email@example.com.