UC Davis men’s basketball explodes in first half, continues to protect home court
The UC Davis men’s basketball team extended its home winning streak at the Pavilion to 19 games with a 80-56 blowout win over visiting Cal Poly on Saturday night. The Aggies went on a trio of long scoring runs and shot a blistering 62 percent from the field in the first half, including a 6-for-7 mark from beyond the arc, to build up a 24-point halftime lead. The team was able to cruise in the second half and now sits in third place in the Big West standings, behind Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara.
“We were talking before the game that we’re getting everybody’s best shot,” said Head Coach Jim Les. “It’s about time we gave our best shot, and let the chips fall where they may.”
UC Davis completely dominated the boards on both ends of the hardwood, finishing with a 27-17 advantage in rebounds and creating 18 second-chance points.
The Aggies scored 20 of their first 28 points from inside the paint, setting the tone that they were going to be the most physical, aggressive team on the court throughout the game. As the night progressed, more and more uncontested looks started to open up outside the key for UC Davis.
“One of the things we wanted to influence or emphasize as a staff was going inside,” Les said. “All of the sudden the paint starts collapsing and now we’re kicking it out and guys are getting wide open looks. The ball movement was really crisp and guys gave up a good shot to give their teammate a great shot.”
The Aggies really clamped down on defense for the second consecutive game by allowing just 56 points, which ties a season low. The team also forced 12 turnovers, which it turned into 18 points on the other end.
“I thought our defensive activity and pressure from the get-go was really disruptive,” Les said. “I think for the game we had 18 deflections, which tells me guys are engaged and getting after it.”
On average, UC Davis has given up the fewest amount of points per game, 66.1, to opponents in the Big West conference. In addition, the Aggies force an average of 16 turnovers per game, which also leads the league.
“When the defense is that active and creating turnovers and missed shots, this group is pretty impactful in the open court making plays,” Les said.
After a back-and-forth battle for the opening six minutes, UC Davis rattled off 10 consecutive points, including five from junior forward Garrison Goode, to jump out to a 19-7 lead. Following a three-pointer by Cal Poly, the Aggies tallied 10 more points in a row to grow the lead to 29-10.
UC Davis did not take its foot off the gas at the end of the half, rolling into the locker room on a 13-4 run.
Senior forward Chima Moneke paced the Aggies with a team-high 21 points on 9-for-11 shooting from the field. He brought the home crowd to its feet with a slam dunk at the start of the second half. He also turned heads by emphatically swatting away a Cal Poly shot attempt near the end of the first half.
Saturday night’s victory was truly an all-around team effort in every sense, as all 10 players that checked into the game for the home team scored at least one basket and grabbed at least one rebound. Sitting on a comfortable lead for the majority of the evening, UC Davis was able to let some of its bench players log a significant number of minutes on the floor.
“Those guys work their tail off every day and we have a lot of confidence in them,” Les said. “We’re going to need our bench down the stretch, if somebody turns an ankle or somebody gets in foul trouble or gets tired. Those guys coming in and playing with confidence and giving us contributions are huge.”
Junior forward AJ John came off the bench and provided a spark for the Aggies in the first half with eight points, knocking down a pair of three-pointers and scoring on a tip-in.
“AJ is playing at a high level,” Les said. “He spends extra time in the weight room and extra time conditioning. What you’re seeing is a by-product of all that extra work he does.”
In addition, sophomore guard Joe Mooney added a trio of three-pointers, two rebounds, and two assists in 26 minutes of playing time.
The Aggies will take a trip to southern California to play their next two games, facing CSU Northridge tonight and Long Beach State on Saturday afternoon. The team will return to action at the Pavilion on Thursday Feb. 8 against UC Santa Barbara.
Written by: Brendan Ogburn — firstname.lastname@example.org