Teams: UC Davis at UC Riverside; at Cal State Fullerton
Records: Aggies 12-14, (7-7); Highlanders 6-21, (3-11); Titans 14-13, (6-8)
Where: Student Recreation Center — Riverside, Calif.; Titan Gym — Fullerton, Calif.
When: Thursday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 6:05 p.m.
Who to watch: Senior Paolo Mancasola is definitely the team’s “glue” guy. As point guard, he is responsible for running the Aggies’ high-flying offense and he has done an excellent job this season. Mancasola is ranked third in assists in the Big West conference, averaging 4.2 per game.
On Saturday, the Redding, Calif. native gave fans another reason to scream. He sank a buzzer-beating 18-footer with 1.8 seconds left on the clock to give UC Davis the victory over Northern Colorado.
Did you know? Senior Ryan Howley is UC Davis’ rebound king. He’s averaging 7.8 rebounds per game, earning him the fifth-place ranking in conference play this season. He has also snagged 465 rebounds in his career, moving him to third-place all-time in Big West history.
Preview: The Aggies are traveling down to Riverside this Thursday to face off against the Highlanders at home. Head coach Jim Les knows this will not be an easy game, whatever the records may say.
“Riverside plays tough at home. They’ve got a lot of talent and a lot of energy and it’s not going to be an easy challenge for our guys,” Les said.
UC Davis earned a 79-72 victory against the Highlanders in January. During that game, UCR relied on its three top players to score a majority of its points. Meanwhile, UC Davis was able to spread the ball quite effectively, with five players scoring in the double digits. Sophomore J.T. Adenrele led the Aggies with 20 points, followed closely by junior Ryan Sypkens who earned 17 during the game.
This will also be the first time that UC Riverside sees sophomore Corey Hawkins. He was out with an injury during the last game, and he will pose a new challenge for the Highlander defense.
UC Davis will remain in SoCal for Saturday’s matchup against Cal State Fullerton. The Titans managed to top the Aggies at home in January, earning a 95-88 victory. Despite Hawkins and Adenrele each banking 22 points, the Aggies were unable to find the win. Cal State Fullerton’s offense was led by senior D.J. Seeley who scored 32 points. UC Davis also recorded 13 turnovers in that game, which did not help its case.
This game will be decided by the defensive effort. The Aggies need to out-rebound the Titans, and they need to find a way to manage a few more steals of their own.
There will be some offense involved as well. Seeley and Hawkins are in a close duel for the leading scorer in the Big West. Hawkins currently tops the list, but Seeley is just four points behind.
This week gives the Aggies a chance to earn two more conference victories. It also gives them the chance to test their offensive and defensive strengths before they head home to play Long Beach State on ESPN2.
“We’re going to stay focused and use this week to keep progressing as individuals and as a team. When we head home for the big game, we’re going to be ready but we’re not focusing on that until next week,” Les said.
— Kim Carr