Teams: UC Davis vs. Cal Poly
Records: Aggies 14-16, (9-9); Mustangs 17-12, (12-6)
Where: Honda Center — Anaheim, Calif.
When: Thursday at 2:30 p.m.
Who to watch: The Aggies are headed to Anaheim, Calif. this weekend and all eyes will be on sophomore Corey Hawkins. Hawkins has been absolutely incredible for UC Davis this year, leading the Big West Conference in scoring and placing in the top ten for eight other individual categories.
The Goodyear, Ariz., native was granted First Team All-Big West honors this week, in addition to earning the Big West Newcomer of the Year Award. CBS Sports also named Hawkins the Big West’s Most Valuable Player.
Hawkins played a championship-caliber game against Long Beach State last Thursday night, but Saturday’s performance against UC Irvine was unusually muted. To be fair, the Hawk still finished the game with 21 points, 3 assists and 2 steals but he went 9-14 from the free throw line which is highly uncharacteristic for him. The Aggies want to be contenders for Sunday’s championship game and Hawkins will be a key component in achieving that goal.
Did you know? Coach Jim Les has a knack for turning teams around. He took the head coaching position at his alma mater, Bradley, in 2003. Just three years later, that same faltering squad advanced to the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA Tournament.
Likewise, in his second year at UC Davis, he led them to a middle of the pack contender for the Big West Conference tournament. The Aggies are a dark horse to win the league after having gone 3-13 in conference last year.
Preview: UC Davis split games with rival Cal Poly this year. The Aggies took the first, winning 69-67 on a Hawkins buzzer-beater special. The Mustangs charged back to snag a victory a month later, when they won 68-53.
It has been over a month since the loss in San Luis Obispo, and the Aggies are a much better squad. This team has experienced some incredible ups and downs during the past month and it has made them stronger as a result.
UC Davis lost both games last week. First, they lost a true heartbreaker to Long Beach State and then they followed it up with a second half collapse against UC Irvine. Most teams would be defeated after a week like that, but this young roster has shown incredible maturity over the past few days.
This team has practiced hard and prepared well. They know that they can go toe-to-toe with any team in the Big West and they are ready to start claiming those close victories, instead of falling victim to them.
“We’ve got a hard week ahead of us but we’ll do everything we can to prepare,” head coach Jim Les said.
Senior Ryan Howley echoed Les’ thoughts. The loss against UC Irvine meant Howley and fellow senior Paolo Mancasola lost their last games at home. As if this team needed any more motivation after the Long Beach upset, they are more determined than ever to help these seniors end their Aggie careers on a good note.
“We need to make the most of these next few days to prepare for the upcoming tournament. We will learn from our mistakes and work hard at practice to prepare for our next game,” he said.
The Big West Championship Tournament will be held at the Honda Center this weekend. Every game will be televised on Fox Prime Ticket and they can also be viewed online via BigWestTV. Friday’s semi-final game will be aired on ESPN3 and will be aired at a later time on ESPNU as well.
— Kim Carr