The Aggies defeat the UC Irvine Anteaters 74-65, now sit first in Big West Conference
Finishing last season with the number-one defense in the Big West Conference, the UC Davis men’s basketball team showed why it deserves to be at the top of the table, earning a thrilling comeback victory last Saturday night against the UC Irvine Anteaters, 74-65.
This win pushed the Aggies into first place in the Big West Conference, bringing their overall record to 13-8 (5-1 in conference play and continuing their dominating performance at home games, remaining the only team left in the Big West with an undefeated home record (6-0).
“We can’t get too hot,” said junior forward Chima Moneke. “First place is great but at the end of the day, you can lose it very quickly. We have to stay consistent but be confident in ourselves and execute the game plan every time.”
It was a rough start for the Aggies, as they found themselves in an 18-point deficit just seven minutes into the first half of play.
However, UC Davis quickly picked up its performance, going on 13-2 and 6-0 scoring runs in the end of the first half, leading into the second. At halftime, UC Irvine held a 33-27 lead. Once the second half began, it was lockdown defense for the Aggies, as the Anteaters’ field goal percentage slowly dwindled from 40 percent in the first half to 32 percent in the second. UC Irvine also saw a decrease in its three-point percentage, going 4 of 7 (57 percent) in the first half and 0-8 in the second.
“I think getting down early was because we came out too energetic and didn’t play our brand of basketball,” Moneke said. “It started with coach because he didn’t overreact, it trickled down [to the team] and we cut their lead.”
Success did not only come with the Aggies’ defense, but their offense as well. Moneke led the night on offense, scoring 22 points (all in the second half) shooting 7 of 12 from the field and a perfect 8 of 8 from the line. Moneke also grabbed eight rebounds.
Senior guard Brynton Lemar finished with 13 points on the night, 10 of those coming from the free throw line — a career high. To add to the offensive performance, senior guard Darius Graham added 13 more points and five assists. Going to the line 10 times during the game, senior guard Lawrence White finished with nine points and five rebounds. Sophomore guard Siler Schneider and senior forward J.T. Adenrele scored eight and seven points, respectively.
If there was one thing that was certain in this game, it is that the Aggies are locking it down from the free throw line. The team hit 35 of 46 free throws (76 percent), setting a new team high in free throws made and attempted. This success from the free throw line could be attributed to practice early in the week, as each player shot 100 free throws in Monday’s practice to sharpen their skills at the line.
“I think it played a big part in being confident at the line,” Lemar said. “It just made us more confident and those are the little details that we don’t focus on a lot, so it was great that coach gave us the opportunity to work on that.”
The Aggies leave town to head on a two-game road trip against Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 2 and 4, respectively.
“This group has been pretty good about taking 24 hours and enjoying the victory of the game and then coming back with great focus each week,” said head coach Jim Les. “They know how quickly the tide can turn. We will get back to attention to detail and focus on Cal Poly. We need to continue to focus on defense and continuing to clean up some of the offense so we don’t dig ourselves into a hole.”
Written by: Ryan Bugsch — firstname.lastname@example.org