Valentine’s Day showed the Aggies plenty of love, especially since the Aggie Pack made adorable valentines for each of the players. UC Davis jumped out to an early lead on Hawai’i, and it only took junior Ryan Sypkens four minutes to re-write the history of Aggie basketball.
After swiping the ball from the Rainbow Wahine, he took the assist from sophomore J.T. Adenrele and shot another classic Sypkens three from beyond the arc. Not only did it go in, it broke the single season record for three-pointers, and it moved Sypkens to the number-one leading three-point scorer in Aggie history.
Sypkens may not have registered that he had just broken two records, but his teammates and the Aggie Pack certainly did as the Pavilion exploded.
“Honestly, I hit my first one and it wasn’t until I got to the sideline and people started congratulating me that I realized it. It was great and it definitely gave me more confidence throughout the game,” Sypkens said.
It must have, because Sypkens finished the evening with five threes and 17 points.
“He has great range, great confidence. It’s a credit to him that when he does miss, I’m surprised and many of his teammates are surprised. It’s a great honor to see that,” said head coach Jim Les.
Not to be outdone, plenty of other Aggies provided highlights. Sophomore Corey Hawkins returned to his home court with a vengeance, scoring 21 points. In the two games against Hawai’i the high-scoring Hawkins netted 61 points. Hawai’i was shredded by Hawkins during the last game, and they failed to find an answer for him on Thursday.
“With their offensive abilities, they lack on defense a little bit. We were moving the ball and being patient and it frustrated them tonight,” Hawkins said.
Adenrele continued to play strong inside the paint. He was out-sized by Hawai’i but he still managed to pull in 10 points and five rebounds on the night.
Junior Tyler Les also provided some much needed help on offense. The Aggies were without junior Josh Ritchart and Les filled the gap with 11 points and three rebounds of his own.
UC Davis fans are used to seeing Hawkins and Sypkens serve as offensive powerhouses, but Valentine’s Day brought two welcome surprises. Senior Paolo Mancasola served as the point guard and he certainly runs the offense well. However, Hawai’i was desperately trying to find a solution on defense and when they dropped onto Hawkins and Sypkens, Mancasola made the buckets himself.
“My job is to get these guys the ball; in order to do that I have to get mine and keep the defense honest. I had to be more aggressive, so that’s what I did,” Mancasola said.
Coach Les has been full of praise for Mancasola this year. He was certainly happy to see the aggression that earned him 11 points, three assists and two steals on Thursday.
“I thought Paolo did a really nice job. He took shots when they were available and he ran our team and kept us organized. He was excellent on defense,” Les said.
Another surprise came in the final minutes of the game when UC Davis sent their bench in to finish the victory. Freshman Tyler Ott came in for the final two minutes and scored two three-pointers. When asked if Aggie fans were given a glimpse of the next Sypkens, Coach Les laughed.
“Tyler Ott has caught some heaters in practice. I always say you’re going to play like you practice and he came out and did that,” Les said.
The game was capped off by sophomore Clint Bozner, whose decisive dunk put the cherry on top of the 89-65 win over Hawai’i.
It was a phenomenal all-around performance against the second-ranked team in the league. It brought UC Davis to 6-6 in Big West conference play and Coach Les was certainly pleased.
“Our defense held them to 65 points. Our energy, our discipline were really good. Also, that’s one of the top 20 rebounding teams in the country and we out-rebounded them by nine.”
Of course, the Aggies were not the sole provider of entertainment that night. During the half-time break, a lucky lady got a chance to take the half-court shot and win a huge prize chest courtesy of the Aggie Pack. She missed by a mile, but she turned around to find her boyfriend on one knee. The Pavilion exploded after she said yes and the noise made it to the locker rooms because Sypkens thought someone had finally made the half-court shot.
“An engagement? Really? Well! It’s a good thing we won then! I’d hate to start off an engagement with a loss,” Coach Les said.
After dispatching Hawai’i with relative ease, the Aggies returned for a Saturday night showdown against Cal State Northridge.
Sypkens must have infected the Aggies with three-point fever because the game kicked off with Adenrele scoring his first career-three.
Hawkins made six threes of his own, and ended the game with a monstrous 31 points.
Cal State Northridge never had a chance to pull even with the Aggies. UC Davis ended the first half with a 14-1 scoring run that gave them a 13-point advantage at the end of the half.
Senior Ryan Howley continued to give the Matadors trouble in the second half. He scored six points, but it was his 12 rebounds that prevented the Matadors from evening the score.
“Howley, he’s always going to get his 10-plus rebounds when he gets the minutes. It’s great to have,” Coach Les said.
UC Davis completed the sweep at home with a 73-61 victory over Cal State Northridge.
They were excited about the sweep, but their biggest test is this Wednesday. They travel to Long Beach to take on the top team in conference. In case that was not enough pressure, they will also be showcased on ESPN2.
If the Aggies are nervous, they certainly were not showing it.
“They play well at home, but we also feel like we are playing well,” Les said.
“We know this is a good challenge, and we are excited about it.”
KIM CARR can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.