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Monday, February 26, 2024

Aggies look to send ‘Bows back to Hawaii empty handed

Teams: UC Davis vs. Hawai’i

Records: Aggies 6-13 (1-3); Rainbow Warriors 12-5 (1-2)

Where: The Pavilion — Davis, Calif.

When: Thursday, Jan. 23 at 7 p.m.

After a hard loss versus UC Riverside on Jan. 16 at home, the UC Davis men’s basketball team was still in search of its first Big West conference win. On Jan. 18, they would have their chance, taking on Cal State Fullerton in their second home matchup of the week.

The Aggies played well on their road trip, even in their loss against the Highlanders. UC Davis dominated most of both games, but only managed to split the homestand.

Against UC Riverside, UC Davis started off hot with four players raking up double figures, including a team-high 18 points from junior guard Corey Hawkins on the night. Although the Aggies and their fans watched the match slip through their fingers within the last 15 minutes of the game, in part due to an eye injury to Hawkins, there was a group of standout players on the night. These players included freshman forward Georgi Funtarov, junior guard Avery Johnson and junior forward Iggy Nujic.

Funtarov, a freshman forward hailing from Bulgaria, collected a career-high 14 points on the night. Another Aggie whose roots stem from outside the U.S. is Nujic. The junior Australian scored 10 points, along with a career-high nine rebounds. Finally, Johnson contributed to UC Davis’ 69 total points, with his own career-best output of 10 points on Jan. 16.

However, to the athletes’ dismay they were unable to hold their lead. With a 41-27 halftime lead, it appeared UC Davis would continue to dominate out on the court. Yet, they let the game slip through their fingers as the Highlanders went on a 16-0 run with less than 15 minutes remaining. UC Riverside built their lead to 10 points at one point in the game and the Aggies couldn’t make up the difference, only getting as close as five points of UC Riverside in the final minutes at the Pavilion. The game ended with a final score of 81-69 in favor of the Highlanders.

But the men were not done for the week, as they took on Cal State Fullerton at home on Jan. 18. That game ended with much better results, as the Aggies bounced back from their Thursday night loss, and defeated the Titans, 69-61, marking their first conference win of the season.

Once again Hawkins dominated on the court, with 22 points on the night. He was followed closely by senior guard Ryan Sypkens, who collected his own 15 points against the Titans. With three of those shots coming from behind the arc, Sypkens added to his overall statistics and is now in a three-way tie for fourth place in league history with 283 career three-point field goals made.

But there’s two sides to every game and it was not simply an offensive outburst which led to the win.

“We won this game on defense,” Hawkins said. “We held them to 29 points in the first half and limited their quality scoring chances throughout the rest of the game.”

The victory was a nice one for the Aggies and will hopefully kickstart UC Davis into playing winning basketball.

“It’s nice to get our first conference win, especially at home,” Hawkins said. “Now we have to go back to work at practice and make adjustments for our next game.”

With a long flight across the Pacific Ocean, the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors will visit UC Davis on Jan. 23 for a 7 p.m. game against the Aggies. The Rainbow Warriors currently hold an overall record of 12-5 and are 1-2 in the Big West Conference. Both teams are coming into this match-up with wins on Jan. 18. Hawai’i defeated UC Riverside, 100-69, and UC Davis won against Fullerton, 69-61.

Both teams will no doubt come out hard, hoping that a second conference win will put them in good standing in the Big West. With plenty of basketball ahead, the Aggies will have to play hard on both ends of the court not only against Hawai’i, but against all their opponents, if they expect to get a bid into the Big West Championships in March.

— Sloan Boettcher

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