The UC Davis men’s basketball team disappointed its home crowd by letting a close game slip out of its hands in the final minutes, adding to the growing list of frustrating losses.
“We’ve got to stop letting people beat us at home,” said sophomore Corey Hawkins shortly after losing to Cal State Fullerton on Thursday night.
The Titans came to town and brought their wickedly talented offense with them. The Big West Conference’s most productive team shot for 54.8 percent from the field, 52.2 percent from beyond the arc and 78.9 percent from the free throw line.
The Aggie defense played a strong game, but failed to contain the Titans in the final minutes of the game, which gave the Titans enough time to pull away with a 95-88 victory.
UC Davis started banking the three-pointers early and often to score eight treys in the first half alone. Sophomore J.T. Adenrele handled the ball in the paint for the Aggies, going 3-5 on field goals and a perfect 5-5 from the line.
UC Davis’ offense was strong enough to earn them a 45-40 lead at halftime. They emerged from the tunnel with energy and continued to contest the Titans on every possession.
With 12 minutes left Hawkins drove the ball up the center and scored a layup that gave the Aggies a 62-58 advantage. Unfortunately, he fell head-first into a media camera and had to leave the game for several minutes to recover.
The Titans did not manage to truly pull away from UC Davis until the final two minutes. They were able to penetrate the Aggie defense for some three-pointers and UC Davis was unable to answer on the other side.
It was a hard game to judge because the Aggies had a solid performance. The opportunities were there at the end and they took some good shots, but nothing fell Davis’ way.
After the game head coach Jim Les admitted that his team had struggled, but it was still a solid contest.
“Defensively I was a little disappointed … we have to give a lot of credit to Cal State Fullerton. They have firepower on that offense,” he said. “Overall I thought my guys played well though. They’re showing improvement every game and that’s all you can ask for as a coach.”
With the sting of the most recent heartbreaking loss still in their minds, UC Davis came back with a vengeance against the Highlanders.
The squad bounced back to face UC Riverside on Saturday night, and they did it without Hawkins.
“It was a challenge. We’re without our best player [Hawkins] so we knew we all had to step it up even more,” said junior Ryan Sypkens.
The Aggies stuck to the game plan and it paid off. They went up early against the Highlanders and the game was rarely in question. Adenrele was simply on fire in the paint and finished with 20 points on the night. The big man also finished the week by shooting 80 percent from the free throw line. He jokingly attributed his success to “shooter’s touch.”
“In all seriousness though, I have to give the credit to Coach [Les]. He’s the one that’s been working with me to make improvements,” Adenrele said.
The Highlanders had no answer for the Aggie offense. When they would crash in to cover Adenrele, another Aggie would make them pay from the perimeter. UC Davis shot an outstanding 56.8 percent from the field and Fullerton was never able to compete.
“It feels great to bounce back with a win,” Sypkens said after the game.
UC Davis’ offense was firing on all cylinders and junior Tyler Les credited their point guard.
“Paolo [Mancasola] did a great job of breaking down their defense. Once he has that figured out he can fire the ball around the court for the open shot,” he said.
Tyler Les had a career night of his own, finishing with seven assists.
“Tyler’s doing a nice job of recognizing how guys are playing him. Once he can work around that he can really help spread the defense,” coach Les said.
UC Davis stands 4-4 in conference which has them in contention for the Big West Tournament. They have three incredibly challenging road games ahead and they are hoping to have Hawkins back for them.
“He’s a beast. He’ll be out there no matter what,” Tyler said.
As they prepare to face Pacific, UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly the team is sticking to the game plan.
“We have to continue to focus on the process, then these results will take care of themselves,” Coach said.
The Aggies finished this week with 20 three-pointers through two games. When asked about his offense’s production from beyond the arc Coach Les simply smiled.
“I have a lot of confidence in our offense,” he said.
KIM CARR can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.