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Sunday, April 14, 2024

UC Davis stumbles in Big West play

Going 0-2 to start conference play seems to be the running theme for the UC Davis men’s basketball team. Since the 2011-12 season, the Aggies have gone 0-2 in their conference opening weekend. This year is no exception.

Starting Big West conference play on the road, the Aggies suffered a tough defeat at the hands of Cal State Northridge. The Aggies started off slow shooting only 11-29 (37.9 percent) from the field in the first half and paid dearly for it.

The Aggies were led by the play of junior guard Corey Hawkins, redshirt freshman guard Darius Graham and junior forward Clint Bozner. They combined for 22 of the Aggies’ 31 first-half points. Hawkins struggled from the field in the first half only shooting two for seven from the field, but he was aggressive and got to the free-throw line, where he shot a perfect five for five in the first half.

Meanwhile, the Matadors shot 57.7 percent from the field, including three for six from beyond the arc. Cal State Northridge’s attack was very balanced with five of their players scoring five or more points in the first half.

Despite the disparity in field goal efficiency between the two teams, the Aggies only entered halftime down by eight, 31-39. This was in part due to the rebounding efforts by UC Davis.

The Aggies have tended to be out-rebounded this season. However, the Aggies were only outrebounded by three rebounds due to the excellent rebounding efforts of junior Avery Johnson and senior Ryan Sypkens, with four rebounds each in the first half.

The second half brought much of the same for the Matadors, as they quickly ballooned their lead to an impressive 15 points with 11:27 left in the game.

However, this was when the Aggies came to life, led by the outstanding play of Hawkins, who shot five for seven from the field in the second half on his way to 16 second-half points. This included an impressive six straight points which helped the Aggies cut the Matadors’ lead to seven.

Unfortunately, the scoring outburst was not enough, as the Matadors managed to score down the stretch including clutch free throws to seal the game, winning 89-77. Cal State Northridge was led by the trio of forward Stephen Maxwell and guards Josh Greene and Stephan Hicks. Maxwell, Greene and Hicks shot a perfect 16 for 16 from the free-throw line. The trio hurt the Aggies throughout the game combining for 65 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

The Aggies continued their road trip as they went to the Walter Pyramid to face a strong Long Beach State team. Last year, the Aggies played the 49ers tough at the Pavilion, losing a close 76-77 contest on national television. UC Davis was led by the outstanding play of Corey Hawkins who exploded for 34 points and seven rebounds.

Unfortunately, there would be no magic from Hawkins and the Aggies once again fell to the 49ers, 99-74.

UC Davis learned their lesson from the game against Cal State Northridge and came out of the gate firing, shooting 53.6 percent from the field in the first half. The deadly shooting duo of Hawkins and Sypkens combined for much of the hot shooting. Sypkens had 15 first-half points and three assists. Hawkins contributed 12 points on an efficient three for four from the field.

The efficient offensive display by UC Davis allowed them to head into halftime with a 44-40 lead. This was despite the subpar Aggies’ defense, which allowed the 49ers to shoot 56.7 percent from the field.

The Aggies left their hot shooting start in the locker room as they returned for the second half. They struggled to shoot all throughout the second half and the hot shooting duo of Sypkens and Hawkins only managed to combine for 13 second-half points.

“We played a really good first half because everyone contributed; everybody played to their role and strengths,” head coach Jim Les said. “In the second half, I thought we got away from that. You cannot afford to do that, especially on the road.”

The Aggies continued their bad defense and paid for it dearly. Guard Jeremy Lamb caught fire for the 49ers. After scoring no points in the first half, Lamb torched the Aggies’ defense for 16 points in the second half.

Guard Mike Caffey scored 13 points, four rebounds and three assists in the second-half rout of the Aggies. The 49ers managed to run rampant all over UC Davis and ballooned their lead with an unbelievable 30-0 run to start the half.

UC Davis heads back to Davis, Calif. for a two-game home stand against UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton. The Aggies will play against UC Riverside on Jan. 16 and Cal State Fullerton on Jan. 18. Tipoff for both games is at 7 p.m. at the Pavilion.

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