Teams: UC Davis vs. Long Beach State; at Hawai’i
Records: Aggies 8-17 (3-7), 49ers 11-14 (7-4), Rainbow Warriors 18-7 (7-4)
Where: ARC Pavilion — Davis, Calif.; Stan Sheriff Center — Honolulu, Hawaii
When: Thursday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 22 at 9 p.m.
What to watch for:
In one week, UC Davis is going to see two of the better rebounding teams in the Big West Conference. Unfortunately, this is where the Aggies are weakest.
Currently, UC Davis averages 29.4 rebounds per game as a team, good for no. 345 in the entire Division I. By comparison, the Rainbow Warriors grab 36 per game while the 49ers come in the top 100 with 36.7 per game.
This means that the Aggies are going to have to see significantly better production on the glass from both their big men and their wing players. Junior guard Corey Hawkins has proven to be a good rebounder, averaging 4.5 per game, as has junior guard Avery Johnson.
The UC Davis forwards, mainly junior Clint Bozner and junior Justin Dueck, must hit the boards hard in the extended minutes that they will surely get. Dueck has brought great energy and defensive play lately, averaging 17 minutes per game over the last seven games, but has only grabbed two rebounds per game in that stretch.
The Aggies have faced off against the 49ers already this season, losing 74-99 in Long Beach. UC Davis played one of their stronger offensive games, led by junior guard Corey Hawkins who made five out of his eight shots and added three steals.
The Aggies shot 45.3 percent from the field, including an outstanding 12 three-pointers on 52.2 percent shooting.
Where UC Davis struggled was on defense, something of a common trend early in the season. Long Beach State saw four players in double figures, led by freshman guard Travis Hammonds who had 20 points in just 20 minutes.
On the night, the 49ers shot 55.9 percent from the field, including 52 percent from beyond the arc. They also outrebounded the Aggies by 15 and had nine more assists.
The 49ers are also coming to Davis on somewhat of a hot streak, winners of six of their last eight games after an early nine game losing streak.
Where Long Beach State has struggled is in low-scoring games, losing all but one game in which they scored under 70 points. A strong defensive game will be necessary for UC Davis to win this game, something they failed to provide the last time these two squads met.
The good news for the Aggies is that they have played better on defense lately, especially with Dueck seeing more minutes. They have held their past two opponents to 67.5 points per game and seem to be in a better position to pull out a win than last time these two teams met.
Hawai’i will be a tougher matchup for the Aggies. Like the game mentioned above, UC Davis lost their last contest against Hawai’i by double digits. They let their opponent shoot 58.2 percent from the field while only forcing nine turnovers. The Rainbow Warriors saw five of their players score all but three of their 90 points.
Hawaii has been led by forward Isaac Fotu, who averages 15.8 points and 6.1 rebounds, and forward Christian Standhardinger, who scores 17.6 points and grabs 8.1 rebounds per game.
As a squad, the Rainbow Warriors shoot an outstanding 47.7 percent from the floor and grab almost seven more rebounds than the Aggies per game.
Like Long Beach State, Hawaii will be coming into the game on a hot streak, having won eight of their last 10 matchups. Their offense has been largely impossible to stop, scoring less than 70 points just twice in the whole season.
The Aggies, meanwhile, have been extremely up and down on the offensive end, but seem to thrive in low-scoring games. In their last four wins, the Aggies have either scored above 90 points or below 70, while their opponent has scored less than 70 points in three of those.
If UC Davis is able to grind out low-scoring games in each of their upcoming two, they should have a chance to steal a couple of wins.
— Ryan Reed