Aggies handed defeat in nationally-televised game

Aggies handed defeat in nationally-televised game

Photo Credits: JUSTIN HAN / AGGIE

Men’s basketball shoots 30 percent from the field in a 64-48 loss to UC Irvine

With live game coverage from ESPNU and a sea of white shirts around the Pavillion last Thursday night, the UC Davis Aggies lost to the UC Irvine Anteaters 64-48 in the first of UC Davis’ final four conference games of the 2018-19 season.

The two rivals were no stranger to competition, winning a combined four of the last five Big West conference regular season championships. The Aggies entered last Thursday’s contest on a two-game losing skid, sitting in fifth in the Big West Conference with a 10-16 overall and a 6-6 conference record. Conversely, the Anteaters entered the game sporting a 23-5 overall and 11-1 conference record, holding first place in the Big West.

The first half proved to be a tough start for the Aggies. Despite shooting just 38 percent from the field and at the free throw line, UC Davis only found itself down 31-25 at half time.

Throughout the first half, both teams showed that they wanted the win, bringing aggression to the court that could only be seen in rivalry games. Senior point guard TJ Shorts II, who had been out the previous week nursing a knee injury, gave the home fans a scare when a flagrant I foul from Irvine caused Shorts II to land on his bad knee. He left the court limping during the review of the play but soon returned to the game. The Aggies earned themselves a technical after a scuffle on the floor following the foul, and both coaches were warned to watch their players.

The Anteaters capitalized on the Aggies’ low shooting percentage, shooting 50 percent from both the field and the line. Shorts II led the scoring for the Aggies at the half with seven. Senior forward Garrison Goode racked up six points and four rebounds in his 11 minutes on the court.

“I thought TJ fought through and played really well since for a week he hasn’t really been on the floor,” said Head Coach Jim Les. “You could tell he was a little out of rhythm and was winded because he hasn’t been able to do much. We are in this spot where he is still day to day but we will see how he reacts to the game tonight and continue to work him toward getting one hundred percent. But those still aren’t excuses and I don’t want to take away how well Irvine played.”

Hoping there could be a bounce back in shooting percentage, the Aggies were not able to find their shot in the second half, shooting just 22 percent from the field and 14 percent from the three-point line. Collectively, UC Davis shot at 30 percent from the field and at 21 percent from the arc in a game where its opponent was the physical aggressor on the defensive end of the floor.

“I thought Irvine tonight was the aggressor,” Les said. “They started and finished as the aggressor and all in between and we didn’t respond to it as well as I would have liked. Sometimes we were more worried about the physicality versus finishing the play. As I told the team after ‘we got our butt kicked tonight and we have to own it because there isn’t much we can do anymore about this game but a lot for the next game.’”

Overall, junior center Matt Neufeld led the scoring sheet for UC Davis with 10 points and four rebounds. Even with coming off his injury, Shorts II still put up nine points, two assists and one rebound.

“We had our chances and we had some great looks at the basket,” Les said. “I didn’t think that we continued to dig in defensively. We let the fact that we didn’t see the ball go in affect us on the defensive end and they [Irvine] got some separation.”

On March 2, the Aggies showed a better performance against Cal State Fullerton, earning the 66-59 victory. Even though the team only shot 37 percent from the field, Shorts II was big on the boards, collecting eight rebounds on the night. Senior shooting guard Siler Schneider topped the Aggies with 14 points and five rebounds in the victory.

Now 7-7 in conference play, the Aggies will continue to fight in their final two games of the season — both of which are at home — beginning today against Hawaii. UC Davis will finish the regular season and honor its seniors on Saturday night against UC Riverside.

“We got to get more of our swagger back on the defensive end and let that create more offense for us,” Les said about the future. “When we do that we are a good basketball team but the last two games we weren’t as good and solid defensively as we need to be.”

Written by: Ryan Bugsch — sports@theaggie.org