Aggies squeeze past the Cougars, 80-75

As the Aggies (2-2) headed into Portland, Ore. for the Portland State tournament with a 1-2 record, they looked for a source of momentum to help jump start their season. The Aggies certainly found what they were looking as they managed to squeeze out a close victory against the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Cougars (1-3) due in large part to the magnificent play of senior forward Josh Ritchart.

Ritchart had a dominant game on Friday, Nov. 22. His final stat line included an impressive 35 points on 12-14 (85.7%) shooting from the field, 13 rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Ritchart’s scoring outburst was the first time that an Aggie has scored 30 points or more since junior guard Corey Hawkin’s outstanding 34-point performance against Long Beach State on national television last season.

“I’m on our guys all the time about playing games the way you practice; Josh has been our best practice player, he brings it every day,” said head coach Jim Les.

The Cougars came out roaring from the start, jumping out to a 19-6 lead early in the first half. UC Davis fought its way back due to some solid defense and the continual effort on the offensive end by Ritchart.

Ritchart capped off a fantastic first half performance with an improbable three-pointer from close to three-quarters court which beat the buzzer. This allowed the Aggies to dwindle the Cougar’s lead to only two points, 38-36.

The second half brought new life for UC Davis as junior guard Corey Hawkins finally got going. After only scoring two points and turning the ball over three times in the first half, Hawkins managed to score nine points in the second, bringing his game total to 11 points.

Redshirt freshman Darius Graham was able to create offense for the Aggies in the second half, as evidenced by his five assists after intermission. Graham finished the game with a team-high seven assists to go along with his seven points.

However, the night was dominated by Ritchart, who dropped another 15 points in the second half and added 7 rebounds as well. Ritchart scored four clutch points on two free throws and a jumper late in the game, which put the game out of reach for the Cougars. Ritchart’s points were the last points scored by either team, with the final score at 80-75.

The Aggies will continue play in the Portland State tournament against Loyola Chicago on Nov. 23 at 3:00 p.m.

KENNETH LING can be reached at sports@theaggie.org.