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Davis, California

Monday, September 20, 2021

Men’s basketball Preview

Teams: UC Davis vs. Hawai’i; vs. Cal State Northridge
Records: Aggies 9-13 (5-6); Rainbow Wahine 15-9 (9-4); Matadors 13-12 (4-9)
Where: The Pavillion — Davis, Calif.
When: Thursday at 7 p.m.; Saturday at 7 p.m.
Who to watch: Sophomore Corey Hawkins is simply unstoppable. He returned from an injury to score 36 points through his first two games back.

As UC Davis prepares to face Hawai’i on Valentine’s Day, the Goodyear, Ariz. native will be a key piece of the game plan. During the Aggies’ last match against the Rainbow Wahine, Hawkins’ shredded their defense, landing 40 points in the game.

His incredible performance broke UC Davis’ record for most points scored in a game and it gave Hawai’i their first Big West conference home loss of the season.

Did you know? UC Davis’ victory over UC Santa Barbara broke through a five-year barrier, giving the Aggies their first win over the Gauchos since 2007.

Preview: As conference play dwindles to a close, the Aggies are not in the place they want to be. Fortunately, they have two chances to add wins to their record this week.

Thursday night’s Valentine’s Day matchup against Hawai’i may be a chance for Hawkins to repeat his monstrous scoring achievement. However, the Aggies are suspecting the Rainbow Wahine to place a little bit more emphasis on Hawkins.

If Hawai’i hones their defensive focus on Hawkins, it will leave junior Ryan Sypkens open in the wings to sink more three-pointers from beyond the arc. Sypkens has landed 83 three
-pointers this season, tying UC Davis’ school record. If Hawai’i leaves him sitting in the wings, he will utilize his incredible accuracy from the perimeter to make them pay for it.

A win over Hawai’i would allow the Aggies to pull to 6-6 in conference play and improve their sixth-place ranking. It would also give them some momentum to carry them into Saturday’s match-up against the Cal State Northridge Matadors.

During the last game against the Matadors, the Aggies were able to pull away with a 74-71 victory. The Matadors are coming off a loss against conference-leading Long Beach State, and they will be playing third-ranked Pacific on their way up to Davis.

The Matadors are led by sophomore guard Stephan Hicks, who averages about 17 points per game for his team. Cal State Northridge will pose a threat from the field. They like to drive the ball to the hoop and go for the short shots and fouls. They do not have a Sypkens-like threat from beyond the three-point perimeter, but they have posed problems for the Aggie defense in the past.

The same defense struggled in the team’s last game against Cal Poly. Head coach Jim Les thought his team lacked some of the intensity and aggressiveness they usually bring to the court.

“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.

UC Davis’ defense has been a work-in-progress all season long, but the team is running out of opportunities to solidify their defensive play. These are two of the last three games they have before playing at home as part of the ESPN BracketBusters tournament.

That game against Northern Colorado will be broadcast on ESPN2 and the Aggies need to find a way to marry their offensive spark with some defensive strength so they can play their best basketball when they take the national stage in a few weeks.

— Kim Carr


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