With 12:38 left in the first half, senior forward Josh Ritchart hit a three assisted by junior forward Josh Fox, giving the Aggies a 14-11 lead. From that point on, UC Davis led the visiting Eastern Illinois University Panthers, finishing the game with an 80-70 victory.
Senior guard Corey Hawkins, who has been influential in the Aggies’ 7-1 start, started the game off slow and had just five points in the first half on 1-4 shooting. The second half proved to be a different story as he careened into the paint multiple times, drawing shooting fouls. Hawkins finished the game with 19 points, six assists and a career-high three steals.
The real MVP, however, was junior forward J.T. Adenrele, who finished with 17 points on 7-9 shooting in just 22 minutes of playing time, including a few rim-rattling dunks. Senior forward Josh Ritchart added 11 points and six rebounds, but was limited to 24 minutes on the floor due to foul trouble.
This game marked the second time that the Aggies have seen the Panthers, playing earlier this year in Illinois.
Hawkins noted that the familiarity of facing this team before made the matchup more interesting and that he was more impressed with his opponent the second time around.
“We knew a little bit [of] what to expect, [and] that makes it a little bit easier on our defense, but they were a better team this time around. They have come off two wins in a row, they are feeling confident and they held us to a close game,” said Hawkins.
The game was a close contest, despite a 10 point victory for the Aggies. Much of the game was played within a four- to six-point margin before late fouls gave UC Davis the final advantage.
After the game, Coach Les commended his teams’ ability to pull out the victory, saying, “This is a game that a couple of years ago, I’m not sure [we’d] win. We just kept grinding, they kept making their runs and what I really liked about our team tonight is [that] when they made a run, we answered right back. And we did it on both ends.”
The Aggies will now take an 11-day break before heading on a four-game road trip. Les expressed his excitement about the potential that his team has to continue to improve as this trip comes.
“We love the fact that we are 7-1, but we feel like we haven’t even come close to our ceiling,” said the coach.
When UC Davis students come back after winter break, they will return to a road-tested basketball team opening up their Big West Conference play.
Photo by Katie Lin.