Teams: UC Davis at Cal State Fullerton
Records: Aggies 8-16 (3-6); Titans 7-15 (2-6)
Where: Titan Gym — Fullerton, Calif.
When: Thursday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m.
Who to watch:
Junior guard Avery Johnson may not fill up the stats sheet every night, but he continues to define the Aggies on the defensive end.
Despite averaging only 3.6 points per game, Johnson has been a significant part of the recent resurgence of the UC Davis defense.
He has played over 30 minutes in five of the last seven games and has begun to add more to the Aggies offensively. Most importantly, he brings a stifling defensive presence and a willingness to crash the boards, something that the vertically-challenged Aggies desperately need.
The Aggies are embarking on a one-game road trip, visiting Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 13.
UC Davis has seen the Titans already this season, beating them 69-61 in the Pavilion. In that game, the Aggies flashed their sometimes stingy defense, holding Fullerton to 37.9 percent shooting from the field, including 14.3 percent from beyond the arc. UC Davis was outrebounded by 13 on the night, but managed to get the win thanks to 22 points by junior guard Corey Hawkins.
As a team, the Titans are led by senior guard Michael Williams who averages 16.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Junior guard Alex Harris has also played a significant role and is coming off of a 27-point outing against Cal State Northridge.
The good news for UC Davis is that the Titans do not hold a significant size advantage. No player on the squad who averages over 15 minutes per game is taller than 6’7”, and they are led in rebounds by junior forward Steve McClellan with 6.3 per game.
This should come as a relief to the Aggies who are fresh off of a game against 7’6” center Mamadou Ndiaye and the UC Irvine Anteaters. It should also be an ample opportunity to capitalize on the skills of rangy forwards freshman Georgi Funtarov and junior Iggy Nujic, the latter of whom has seen a significant decrease in minutes over the last five games.
The game also gives the Aggies the chance to continue the great defense that they have been playing lately. They held the high-powered Anteaters offense to 61 points and kept the Cal State Northridge team to 32 points in the first half, before giving up 49 in the second.
“I think our defense is remarkably better, the players are doing everything that we, as a staff, are asking them to do,” said head coach Jim Les after the close loss against UC Irvine.
As a team, Cal State Fullerton shoots a bumbling 42.2 percent from the floor, including 31.8 percent from three-point range. Their two leading scorers, Williams and Harris, make 43 percent and 38 percent of their shots respectively, while only two players playing consistent minutes have made over 45 percent of their shots.
To get the win, the Aggies will have to play slightly better on the boards than they did in their last meeting. More importantly, UC Davis must keep up with its recent defensive resurgence and force the Titans into a poor shooting night, something they seem to have grown accustomed to.
— Ryan Reed