53.8 F

Davis, California

Friday, April 12, 2024

Men’s basketball embarks on a three game homestand

Teams: UC Davis vs. UC Riverside; vs. Cal State Fullerton

Records: UC Davis 5-12 (0-2); UC Riverside 5-11 (0-2); Cal State Fullerton 6-9 (1-0)

Where: The Pavilion — Davis, Calif.

When: Thursday, Jan. 16 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 18 at 7 p.m.

Who to watch:

Freshman forward Georgi Funtarov went on a tear in the seven games before the Aggies lost to Long Beach State on Jan. 11. The sweet-shooting big man averaged 11.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game over that stretch while making just under half of his field goal attempts from the field. UC Davis needs Funtarov to shoot better from beyond the arc, as he is making just 28 percent of his attempts in the past eight games, but the Aggies have enjoyed his recent play. Look for Funtarov to bounce back after a poor showing against Long Beach State.


The UC Davis Aggies men’s basketball squad is returning to Davis for a three-game homestand after two straight losses to Southern California rivals.

Their first competitor, the UC Riverside Highlanders, are coming into the contest having lost five of their last six games. This includes a recent five-point loss to Cal State Fullerton who the Aggies will play later in the week.

The Highlanders are anchored by forward Taylor Johns who has averaged 12.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game on 54.4 percent shooting. Johns has also chipped in 2.1 blocks and 0.8 steals a game on the defensive end.

While Riverside has gotten strong play out of forwards Taylor Johns and Chris Patton, the the production of their guards has been largely disappointing. 5’10” guard Nick Gruninger, who leads all guards in minutes played, has averaged 8.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game. More importantly, however, he has shot just 35.8 percent from the field and 35 percent from beyond the arc.

The rest of the guard rotation has been more of the same for the Highlanders, which is good news for the Aggies whose strength lies in that position.

Both Aggies junior guard Corey Hawkins and senior guard Ryan Sypkens played exceptionally on their recent Southern California road trip. Hawkins averaged 22.0 points and 3.5 steals per game on 55 percent shooting while Sypkens added 16.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists each contest.

The Aggies also shouldn’t be handicapped by their lack of size inside, something that has proved to be a problem throughout the year. While UC Riverside has 6’10” forward Chris Patton, no other players on their roster stand over 6’8”.

The game will also feature a battle for the made-up title of “best Australian big man in the Big West,” as both Patton and junior forward Iggy Nujic hail from Down Under.

On Jan. 18, the Aggies take on the Cal State Fullerton Titans, winners of three of their last five games.

The Titans are led by guard Michael Williams who is averaging 15.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. He has been helped by backcourt mate Alex Harris who has poured in 12.1 points to go along with 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.

Cal State Fullerton has been hindered by an inability to shoot effectively from beyond the arc. On the season, the team has shot 31.2 percent from three point range. Only guard Josh Gentry has made above 40 percent of his attempts, doing so while taking 2.5 three-pointers per game.

Like the Aggies and UC Riverside, the Titans do not have a tall frontcourt to worry about. 6’9” freshman forward Joe Boyd is the only player over 6’7” on the roster who averages over 15 minutes of playing time, and he is tied for third on the team with 3.8 rebounds per game.

This should benefit UC Davis immensely as it allows rangy forwards Funtarov, Nujic and Josh Ritchart to spread the floor without having to bang down low too much.

The Aggies should also have the upper hand as they are a slightly better shooting team. UC Davis shoots 44.9 percent from the field and 34.8 percent from beyond the arc as a team. They are led by Ritchart who is making an outstanding 63.2 percent of his shots, including 56.3 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.

If UC Davis can continue to shoot well and capitalize on the continually improving play of several key players, the Aggies could come out of this rejuvenating homestand two wins richer.

— Ryan Reed



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