Underdog Aggies fall to Kansas in First Round of NCAA Tournament

JAY GELVEZON / AGGIE

UC Davis men’s basketball team fights hard, falls 100-62 to Jayhawks

Fresh off its First Four win over North Carolina Central on Wednesday, the UC Davis men’s basketball team advanced to the official first round of the NCAA tournament as the sixteenth seed to take on the tournament’s number-two overall seed and the Midwest region’s number-one seed — the Kansas Jayhawks. The Aggies’ dreams of a Cinderella run through the tournament, however, were snuffed out, as they were flattened by the Jayhawks, 100-62.

UC Davis entered the game the heavy underdog; Kansas is an elite college program with a rich winning tradition and a run of 28 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, while the Aggies are relatively new to the Division I scene. It was therefore surprising when the Aggies took a slim lead early in the game after a couple of buckets from junior forward Chima Moneke. The Aggies came out with a high level of energy and competed right with the favored Jayhawks. A deep two from senior guard Brynton Lemar tied the game at 21 midway through the first half.

After UC Davis head coach Jim Les was assessed a technical foul moments later, the floodgates opened up. The Jayhawks, led by one of the best players in the country, Frank Mason III, ended the half on a 29-7 run, and Kansas went into the break on top 50-28.

Things didn’t get any better for the Aggies in the second period. The Jayhawks quickly soared to a 30-point lead behind Mason’s masterful three-point shooting and overwhelming skill and athleticism from Kansas freshman Josh Jackson, who slammed down several crushing alley-oops.

But the Aggies never let their intensity drop off. They fought for every loose ball and every rebound, but UC Davis’ shots just did not fall from the outside or in the paint against the Jayhawk forwards, who had the noticeable height advantage. The Aggies’ night was summed up when they played a near perfect defensive possession, but the Jayhawks’ sharpshooter Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk drained a fading corner three as the shot clock expired, despite Aggie senior guard Lawrence White being draped all over him. No matter how hard the Aggies played, the ball just did not bounce their way. But, despite being down by such a large margin, Moneke made arguably the most exciting plays for UC Davis when he threw down a powerful dunk over several Kansas defenders, then elevated on the defensive end and swatted away an attempted shot from the Jayhawks late in the game.

There were some positives that reflected well on UC Davis during the game as well. One of the television announcers, Kevin Harlan, made a remark about the school’s academic prowess, saying that neither he nor the two other broadcasters working the game with him could have gotten into UC Davis. Even actor Rob Lowe, a new UC Davis basketball fan, was in attendance on his birthday to cheer on the Aggies. When Les began to substitute out his senior players, viewers took notice of the emotions that ran high as he embraced each one of his seniors on the court for the last time.

For UC Davis, a basketball program that had advanced to Division I status for basketball in 2004, simply the opportunity to play in the national tournament is fairly surreal. The cameras were rolling when head coach Jim Les addressed his team just before tip-off of the biggest game in the program’s history, perfectly encapsulating what the trip to Tulsa meant for his players and for UC Davis.

“Tonight’s about telling our story,” said Les, with a tone of solemnity. “And we tell it by how hard we work, how hard we compete. So when the 40 minutes are over, they know Adenrele, they know Moneke and they know who the hell UC Davis is.”

 

Written by: Dominic Faria — sports@theaggie.org