Despite deficit, Aggies fought back behind Shorts’, Schneider’s late-game heroics
After a taxing five-game road trip to open the season, the UC Davis men’s basketball team finally got to play on its home court with a visit from the Northern Colorado Bears. Coming off of two losses in its previous three games, bringing its record to 3-2, the team was hoping to correct any struggles early on in the season while there is still plenty of time to do so before conference play begins. This made their first game at home a welcome sight for all who took the court.
Senior forward Chima Moneke knew the importance of establishing home-court advantage, as the Aggies won 11 games in a row at the ARC Pavilion heading into the home opener.
“It’s always great to play at home,” Moneke said. “When you have something going on, like — that’s continued from last year, it means a little bit more, and our schedule this year is kind of like last year’s schedule.”
After the tipoff, the game began just as the Aggies had wanted it to. After shooting ahead by as many as seven points at the beginning of the game, the Aggies began to miss their shots, and Northern Colorado took the lead away at the end of the first half. The woes continued well into the second half of play, where Northern Colorado led 51-40 with less than five minutes to go in the game. The Aggies then began to pick up offensively as the scoreboard and quiet crowd echoed their subpar shooting performance. When Chima Moneke cut the game to eight thanks to three well-timed free throws, Schneider knew that it was time to strike if the Aggies wanted a chance to get back in the game.
“Coming out of that timeout, Siler [Schneider] looks at me and he says, ‘I’m going to hit a three right now,’ and we go out there and he hit a three,” said junior guard TJ Shorts II. “At that point, I knew we were about to get it rolling.”
Schneider’s trey narrowed the gap further, just enough that the Aggies didn’t look back. Down five with under three minutes to go in the game, Shorts drove into the lane and drained a layup. After a Colorado timeout, Shorts worked on the defensive end, stealing the ball from Northern Colorado’s redshirt senior guard Anthony Johnson and getting fouled on the ensuing fast break that gave the team a chance to make it a one point game. With the Aggies struggling from the free throw line all night, shooting just 17-31, it was important for them to capitalize on these late-game opportunities with the clock stopped. Shorts went on to sink both free throws, sending the crowd into a frenzy. According to Schneider, that excitement helped the team stay motivated on their way to the comeback victory.
“Shoutout to the fans,” Schneider said. “It was a boring game, I know, for the first 35 minutes, but they were a big reason we won at the end with that energy in the building.”
On the ensuing possession, Schneider hit the go-ahead layup with 51 seconds left in the game, and Shorts followed with a layup of his own with 24 seconds remaining. After that, it was all about the defense, and in the five seconds that remained in regulation, senior guard Michael Onyebalu made the defensive play of the night, sending back a three-point attempt by Johnson that tied up the game, a play which secured the 56-51 victory for the Aggies. Moneke was thrilled to see Onyebalu’s hard work pay off.
“That was huge,” Moneke said. “[Onyebalu is] a great defensive player, and he’s confident at what he does, and he came up with a big play.”
All in all, the Aggies closed the game on a 15-0 run on the backs of Moneke, Shorts and Schneider. Moneke led the team in scoring with 17 points and 16 rebounds, despite shooting just 4-12 from the field on the night. Shorts and Schneider contributed 13 points and 12 points apiece, most of which came during the final run of the game. To Schneider, however, the end result was all that mattered.
“It’s just good to get a win,” Schneider said. “It’s like we’ve been saying. It was ugly, and it wasn’t our best performance, but any time you can battle through that and get a win, I think it’s good going forward.”
The Aggies hit the road with the confidence of the home win to play Washington State on Saturday. Shorts saw playing away vital to the team’s success.
“Playing those five early road games; that’s just good for us,” Shorts said. “So we can face adversity in these tough environments like over at Washington, and when we played at Northern Colorado, those are tough places to play, so that’s just getting us ready for conference.”
The team now holds a record on 5-2 going into the Dec. 7 doubleheader against University of the Pacific. The game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. following the women’s game against San Francisco at 5 p.m.
Written by: Bradley Geiser — firstname.lastname@example.org