Men’s basketball blows past Bethesda in first game
After a seven-and-a-half-month offseason, the UC Davis men’s basketball team made its highly anticipated return to the court to open the 2017-2018 campaign. In an exhibition contest, the Aggies blew out the Bethesda University Flames at The Pavilion last Tuesday. Behind a big offensive night from both junior guard Siler Schneider and senior forward Chima Moneke, UC Davis rode to a 111-56 victory without an ounce of drama.
Schneider had his offense rolling early, hitting each of his first three shots from beyond the arc to get the Aggies going on an 11-2 run to start the game. The UC Davis lead would only grow from there. Relentless attack and gritty defense kept the Aggies in control for the first 20 minutes, holding Bethesda to just 24.2 percent shooting in the opening half. Smooth shooting from the Aggie bench allowed UC Davis to build on the lead as well. Junior forward AJ John inserted himself into the scoring mix right away, knocking down his first two field goals –– including a right corner three to put the Aggies up 27-9. Freshman guard Delveion Jackson also contributed greatly off the bench in the first half, hitting two treys and recording eight points.
It was later in the first half, however, that Moneke began to assert himself on the offensive end. He rattled off 10 points in the final 10 minutes of the half, including a soaring alley-oop jam off a lob from Schneider and a rare triple that bounced all over the rim before falling in. Moneke added three more points after the break before sitting out most of the second frame. Moneke would end his evening with 16 points, 11 rebounds and three assists in just 18 minutes.
Continuing his hot start, Schneider finished the first half hitting five of his six shots from the field, all of which were threes. He brought that same energy to the second half as well. After intercepting a cross-court pass on the defensive end, Schneider dashed his way through defenders to lay the ball in for an and-one finish in transition. Just a couple of offensive possessions later, he drove his way to the basket and again converted a tough layup while being fouled. Schneider’s offensive bursts in both halves were enough for him to collect a game-high 23 points. He credited a productive offseason as the biggest contributor to this opening-game performance.
“[I] saw my numbers and percentages from last season and I want to get better,” Schneider said. “I want to help the team more. Got in the gym a lot this offseason and the jumper’s feeling good right now, so I’m going to keep letting it fly.”
Head coach Jim Les had nothing but high praise for the night’s top scorers, explaining that Moneke and Schneider have “separated themselves” as leaders on this retooled team. Les believes that the combination of their playing experience and approach during the offseason has allowed them to have the opportunity to take over the reins.
“Those guys have provided a really good example to the new players,” Les said. “This is how we do things, this is the way it’s done –– and it has allowed the new guys to have a visual of what to expect. That has allowed everyone to get on the same page a lot quicker so I owe it to that returning group because they have been good leaders.”
The Aggies were able to quickly amass a comfortable lead, which gave head coach Jim Les the opportunity to give valuable playing time to his new players off the bench. Three bench players, in fact, recorded double-digit points –– including redshirt sophomore guard Joe Mooney, who shot three for four from three-point range to add in 11 points. Freshman forward Logan Strom shot a perfect three for three from both the field and the free throw line, scoring 10 points in just nine minutes. Outside of the scoring column, senior guard Arell Hennings led the team with seven assists to go along with his eight rebounds. With these performances in mind, Les said that his Aggies put forth a “good team effort.”
“All the guys worked really hard, especially on the defensive end,” Les said. “We made it difficult for them to score and then we played offense off of our defense –– we got out on the break. I thought the ball moved. In the first half […] I think we had 16 assists on 20 field goals. That’s good teamwork and ball movement, which is what we’re preaching and guys are buying into that.”
The Aggies beat the Flames by 19 points in the second half to pad their already impressive lead, culminating in a lopsided 111-56 victory. Les was pleased with the stellar offensive performances and balanced play from both the starters and bench players, but the head coach was also cognizant of the tough games that lie directly ahead. Les said that his team “feels good” and is “excited for the challenge” going into the next three games on the road.
“We got to have road mentality,” Les explained. “Which means defense has to be stingy, you got to take care of the basketball and you got to make all of the hustle plays. You got to assume you’re not going to get many calls and you got to assume the other team is going to play well offensively. So us being solid defensively and continuing to move the ball, take good shots and the hustle plays is what this group prides themselves on and will give us a chance to win every night.”
From a player standpoint, Schneider is confident in the team’s chemistry and in his ability to lead this squad through what is expected to be another wild year in the Big West conference.
“This team is such an easy team to be a leader and captain for,” Schneider admitted. “We get along great, everyone works hard and it’s just a fun group to be around. So it hasn’t been a tough transition, but I’m sure once we hit some adversity later in the year, some leadership stuff will come up. But [so far] it’s going smoothly.”
As Schneider pointed out, it will be interesting to see how this team responds to adversity down the road. Four of UC Davis’ five starters from last season have graduated, leaving an incredible amount of opportunity for new faces to step up as top performers. It will require tremendous leadership from the team’s more experienced members to ensure that the Aggies have a chance to recreate last season’s run to the Big West Conference title, which earned the team a spot in the NCAA tournament for the first time in the program’s history.
For now, the Aggies just hope to play well in the several games on their schedule this preseason. The Aggies went on to win over Northern Colorado with a 74-59 win and again away at the University of the Pacific yesterday. The Aggies will play again this weekend at Utah Valley. A live stream of the game will be available at the UC Davis Aggies website.
Written by: Dominic Faria — firstname.lastname@example.org