UC Davis entered UC Santa Barbara’s “Thunderdome” and proceeded to bring the house down. Sophomore J.T. Adenerele scored the first points of the game by slamming a dunk through the hoop, despite the Gaucho player hanging on his back.
It is rare for UC Davis to jump to an early lead on their opponents, but once the energy was established, the Aggies never backed down. Sophomore Corey Hawkins was certainly eager to return to the court and reassert his offensive skills. He totaled a team-high 20 points and helped the Aggies maintain a double-digit lead for most of the game.
Junior Ryan Sypkens and Adenrele also banked double-digits for the Aggie offense. UC Davis’ offensive performance was paired with a solid defense. The Gauchos were never able to find a rallying rhythm because UC Davis was able to steal the ball six times throughout the game to keep the momentum.
Freshman Olivier Paul-Betu has been playing some hard-earned minutes lately. His small stature gives him a decided size disadvantage, but no one can fault his skill or his commitment to the team.
Paul-Betu held his ground under the basket and managed to draw an offensive charge against the Gauchos’ best player, Alan Williams. The charge put the ball back into the Aggies’ hands and it gave them the chance to pull away on another run.
“Olivier is a tough guy who leads our team in charges during practice. He may not be one of our biggest guys, but he is one of the toughest because he is always willing to lay his body on the line. That charge energized our team,” said head coach Jim Les.
The Aggies struggled to combat Williams during their last meeting, but they pressed him hard on Thursday and his scoring abilities were severely diminished. He was often guarded by several Aggies at once, and he was held to 15 points.
The focus on Williams allowed a few other Gauchos to step up and score for their team, but the Aggie defense was able to hold them in check, even through the final minutes of the game. UC Davis was able to walk away with a 64-56 victory.
“UC Santa Barbara shoots the ball well, but I thought they missed a lot of shots because of our defense and our physicality. We are really pleased with our defensive effort tonight,” Les said.
The Aggies were thrilled to walk away with a win. It was their first victory in Santa Barbara since 2007 and it gave UC Davis the juice to contend with Cal Poly on Saturday.
The last game against the Mustangs ended when Hawkins somehow managed to land a buzzer-beater shot while falling to the floor. It was a tough contest and the Aggies were expecting much of the same.
Unfortunately, most of UC Davis’ offense failed to catch the bus to San Luis Obispo. However, Sypkens definitely had his swagger from beyond the three-point arc. He continues to achieve robotic near-perfection from beyond the arc, landing five treys on the night.
Hawkins surged later in the game, scoring 12 of his 16 points in the final half of the game. Adenrele also pitched in an additional 10 points for UC Davis. It was not a terrible performance for the offense, but it seemed flat. Usually, UC Davis struggles to dominate the defensive side of the paint, but they rarely have trouble scoring.
“Offense doesn’t always travel,” Les said.
The Aggies did a phenomenal job of minimizing Cal Poly’s best player, Chris Eversley. The Mustangs’ primary offensive weapon was held to a mere nine points throughout the game. Unfortunately, the focus on Eversley prevented the Aggies from guarding the rest of the Mustangs’ squad.
The game was a disappointing loss because Les felt like his team should have been in contention. Instead, their offense fizzled and their defense was unable to provide any energizing spark.
“I thought we were not as aggressive on defense as we needed to be. We needed to be the aggressor, step up on defense and set the tone for the game.” Les said. “When we watch the tape, everyone is going to see the difference between Thursday night and tonight.”
The Aggies split the weekend and moved to 9-13 overall and 5-6 in the Big West Conference. They hold the sixth-place ranking in conference, and they have two chances to earn more conference wins in the Pavilion this week.
KIM CARR can be reached at email@example.com.