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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Aggies chop down the Oaks

Facing off against the Menlo College Oaks in their first exhibition game of the year, the UC Davis men’s basketball squad dominated throughout for an easy victory.

The Aggies were led by the pairing of junior forward Iggy Nujic and freshman guard Brynton Lemar, both of whom played their first game in the Pavilion.

Nujic had 12 points and eight rebounds on 50 percent shooting from the floor while Lemar scored 11 points and added four rebounds and three assists.

“Those guys — I think they were tonight who they have been in practice,” head coach Jim Les said. “They are talented, they are skilled, they bring some energy and enthusiasm. They like to play, they fit in well to our system and they have been productive in practice.”

Entering the game, the Aggies had a clear size advantage, with forward Keith Bowman being the lone Oak standing over 6’5”.  Menlo College started the game playing three guards, all of whom are 6’3” or shorter.

Both Nujic and senior forward Josh Richart feasted upon this small lineup in the first half, with Richart tallying 12 points and six rebounds to go along with three blocks and stiff interior defense.

Richart managed to rack up three and ones in the first half and seemed to score at will through a combination of post moves and jump shots.

“It has been a big focus for our team this year, just working on our inside play, so it was good to get a tune-up going against someone else,” Richart said.

Overall, the Aggies were able to take advantage of this size mismatch to the tune of 42 points in the paint, dwarfing the 18 scored by the Oaks.

The Aggies also continuously pushed the ball in transition with junior guard Corey Hawkins and freshman guard Darius Graham, the latter of whom continually sped past his defenders for easy looks at the rim. This led to 14 transition points for UC Davis.

The Oaks, likely understanding the offensive threat that Hawkins possesses, seemed to focus their defensive pressure on him. This allowed for several easy dump-off and drive-and-kick opportunities for Hawkins, who amassed five assists despite a poor scoring output of eight points.

At halftime, the Aggies had scored 46 points on 48.5 percent shooting while forcing the Oaks into 24.2 percent shooting and eight turnovers.

The second half proved to be a much closer contest as the Aggies allowed their second unit to gain experience.

The Oaks shot only 30.6 percent from the field, but hit four three pointers. More importantly, they forced UC Davis to shoot 41.9 percent, including a reproachable 22.2 percent from beyond the arc.

The Aggies managed to break out several highlight reel moments in the second half, including a steal and breakaway dunk by freshman Georgi Funtarov.

With 10:23 remaining in the game, junior forward Clint Bozner followed up a missed shot with a dunk and hung on the rim before finding Oaks player Keith Bowman for an undesired piggyback ride. Bowman promptly removed Bozner from his back and was assessed the game’s lone technical foul.

This win is a good building block for a team looking to go the distance this season.

“The one goal is to win a championship and I’ll be disappointed if we get anything less,” Richart said.

There seem to be lofty goals coming from the Aggies’ locker room after their win against Menlo College, but the competition will only get bigger and better from here.


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