UC Davis faced off against the CSU Northridge Matadors on Wednesday and emerged victorious with a final score of 71-61 after a close and enthralling game.
Coming into the game Wednesday night, senior guard Corey Hawkins had been averaging over 20 points a game. But Hawkins only scored 11 points against CSUN, and the team had to find offense elsewhere to bring home a victory. Junior forward Josh Fox, as well as senior guards Tyler Les and Avery Johnson, indeed stepped up; they scored 11, 15 and 14 points respectively. This was a season high for Johnson, as well as a career high of four three-point field goals.
“Hopefully some of [Les’] shooting touch is rubbing off on me,” Johnson said when asked about his offensive presence on the court. All five of Les’ baskets were from behind the three-point line.
Sophomore center Neal Monson also had a career high with 10 rebounds.
CSU Northridge entered the game with only seven athletes in rotation due to several suspensions.
“We just wanted to play hard and use our depth and wear them down,” said Johnson. “They ran out of gas at the end.”
The game started off fast-paced, with the Matadors winning the tip off and scoring the first basket. In the first 15 minutes the lead switched hands often, and it was only when there were about five minutes left until half did UC Davis let loose and begin to pull ahead.
Thanks in part to shooting 58.1 percent as opposed to Northridge’s 46.4 percent in the first half, the Aggies widened the gap between the two teams. With three seconds on the clock, Les hit a shot outside the line, giving the Aggies an end to the first half with a score of 44-31.
In the second half, the Aggies extended their lead further. At around the 9-minute mark, the Matadors started to close the distance, trying to bridge the 19-point gap. CSUN got within seven points, but their rally was too little, too late. The Matadors experienced the second lowest free-throw shooting percentage of their year, and ended the second half shooting 40 percent on all field goal attempts.
The final score was 71-61 as the Aggies successfully won their first Big West Conference game of the season, carrying their positive momentum of 10-3 from pre-conference play and translating it into a win. The Aggies now have a 3-0 record for Big West home openers.
This marks the fifth victory for UC Davis out of the last six head-to-head games against CSUN. It also marks the first time since the 2003-04 season that the Aggies have held a 7-0 record at home.
UC Davis currently leads the nation in 3-point field goal attempts at 43.6 percent, and is sixth in the nation for regular field goal attempts with 50.4 percent.
The Aggies will play Long Beach State at 8 p.m. on Saturday. With ESPNU providing televised coverage of the game, which has been advertised throughout campus, head coach Jim Les was worried that it would overshadow their game on Wednesday.
“I was a little worried coming in tonight,” Les said. “We couldn’t overlook this team, so I think that was really good that we had a business-like approach to tonight.”
Monson said that they need to continue to be physically tough in order to do well against Long Beach State.
“It’s taken us four years, but we feel we’re at a level now where we can really compete,” Les said. “[There’s] no better way … to find out if we’re making strides than to go against who has been traditionally one of the best teams in this league … and play them on national TV in our building with our great fans.”