Another game on ESPN – just another day in the office for senior guard Corey Hawkins and the rest of the UC Davis men’s basketball team.
The Aggies will face off against rival Cal Poly on Saturday, Jan. 31 on ESPNU, their second nationally televised game of the season. The first, against Long Beach State, turned out to be an overtime thriller that prompted enough attention to bring the camera crews back out to UC Davis.
The Big West Conference is deep this year, but nobody expected UC Davis to be at the top of the list, six games into the year. The team has been buoyed by phenomenal play from Hawkins, who is scoring almost 21 points per game while shooting 51 percent from the floor and from beyond the arc. Hawkins also leads the league in rebounds despite standing at only 6’3”.
Additionally, the team has benefited from the play of their four frontcourt rotation players who either barely played or did not play a season ago. Senior forward Josh Ritchart is second on the team in points while juniors J.T. Adenrele and Josh Fox are second and third in rebounds. Sophomore transfer Neil Monson, the team’s tallest player at 6’10”, has come into his own over the past few games.
Head coach Jim Les is excited about how the team is playing, especially with their recent winning ways in close games.
“I think it’s maturity and experience, it’s confidence and swagger that this team has and a belief in each other,” said Les.
On the other end of the court, the Aggies will see Cal Poly, currently 3-3 in Big West play. The Mustangs have no players standing over 6’9” and the team struggles to grab rebounds. More importantly, Cal Poly has shot the ball poorly throughout the season with 38.2 percent from the field and 27.9 percent from beyond the arc. The Aggies are strong in this respect, consistently holding teams to low shooting percentages.
Cal Poly doesn’t have one player that they lean on offensively, with four players averaging between eight and 13.5 points. The Mustangs, instead, will have to rely on a defense that has held Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara to 50 and 55 points.
While the Aggies are getting used to their newfound winning ways, the team is also ecstatic about playing on television again.
“It’s a completely different environment, the crowd, the energy. We are all very excited to get back [on ESPN] and hopefully we have a big crowd,” said Monson.
“We want this to be an old hat and ESPN keeps coming back. That’s a credit to our fans’ enthusiasm and the environment that they are creating. It shows well across the country and I think it is a great spotlight on this team and on this university, which is well deserved.”
The game on Jan. 31 against Cal Poly will tip off at 7 p.m. at the Pavilion.
Photo by Ciera Pasturel