Whether it was a defensive letdown or a lack of depth on the bench, the Aggies faltered down the stretch and lost to conference rival Pacific. The road game tested UC Davis’ physical strength. Pacific is stacked with size and boasts a roster full of shooters.
The Aggies were without starting guard Corey Hawkins, but junior Josh Ritchart stepped up to fill the void of leading shooter. Ritchart’s been a threat from all over the court this season, but he was on fire against Pacific.
Ritchart banked five three-pointers as well as a field goal and he went 5-7 from the free throw line to score a season-high 22 points.
UC Davis started the game by falling into a 12-point deficit, but they managed to come back and pull together a 19-9 point run of their own. At the end of the half the Aggies were trailing the Tigers by a mere four points.
As usual, UC Davis left the tunnel with some added fire. Coach Les’ halftime speeches certainly seem to be giving them the energy they need to start trimming away at the deficit.
Junior Tyler Les immediately sank a three from beyond the arc to trim the deficit to a one-point margin.
The teams continued to trade baskets, but sophomore J.T. Adenrele muscled his way to the hoop to even things at 41-41.
The Tigers took a timeout to regroup and proceeded to go on another 9-1 scoring run before building a 12-point lead with just eight minutes left in the game.
The Aggies continued to chip away at the lead. Ritchart’s points were supplemented by junior Ryan Sypkens, who continues to amaze from the three-point perimeter. Ritchart’s last three-pointer allowed the Aggies to pull within six points with just under five minutes remaining.
UC Davis has repeatedly struggled to close out games this season, and Saturday night was no exception. The Aggies had no match for the Tigers’ Lorenzo McCloud, who continuously thwarted any attempts to even the score.
Pacific pulled away at the finish and closed the game with a 77-64 victory.
While it was disappointing for UC Davis, the loss is understandable. Pacific is one of the top teams in the conference, and they were backed with plenty of home field support.
It also did not help that sophomore Corey Hawkins did not dress for the game. Hawkins was injured in UC Davis’ home-game win against UC Riverside and has not dressed since.
Despite playing without their leading scorer, the Aggie offense did not struggle to produce. Led by Ritchart, Sypkens and Adenrele also broke into the double-digit margin for points. Junior Tyler Les and seniors Paolo Mancasola and Ryan Howley also scored for UC Davis.
The loss drops the Aggies to 8-12 on the season and 4-5 in conference play. While it is not ideal, they are still positioned sixth overall and still have a chance to make the Big West Conference tournament if they can find a few more wins this year.
A lot of that will depend on whether they can get Hawkins back, or if they can find the bench talent to compensate. Head coach Jim Les noticed how the late game let-downs seem to stem from a lack of experience in his young roster.
“I thought our lack of depth tonight coming down the stretch [was a factor]. This was a physical game and I thought some guys wore down as the game went on,” Les said. “I thought they battled and really worked hard, but give credit to Pacific. They’re playing pretty well and are a pretty tough out here.”
UC Davis is facing another tough week on the road, with games against UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly. There is no word on whether Hawkins will be joining his teammates on the court, but hopefully the Aggies will be able to muster the energy to keep their defense strong throughout the game.
KIM CARR can be reached at email@example.com.