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Sunday, July 14, 2024

UC Davis men’s and women’s basketball battle Sac State at the Golden 1 Center

UC Davis women’s team dominates their rival; men’s team rally was too little too late

By OMAR NAVARRO — sports@theaggie.org


For the first time in the program’s history, both UC Davis’ men’s and women’s basketball teams played at Golden 1 Center together. With the men’s team having played there before in previous years, this provided the opportunity for both sides to play their rival Sacramento State at the home of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. Both programs were unable to play the Causeway Classic in 2020 due to COVID-19, but the rivalry renewed this year in front of the crowd in Downtown Sacramento.

UC Davis Aggies Mens Basketball faceing against Sacramento Hornets at Golden 1 Arena in Sacramento (Benjamin Cheng/Aggie)


UC Davis women’s basketball gets back on track

“It was super exciting,” said redshirt junior guard and Sacramento native Makaila Sanders about playing at Golden 1 Center for the first time. “For me, I’ve been living in Sacramento my whole life. It was one of my dreams to play at the Golden 1 [Center]. Just being here and being on the court back and healthy from taking a year off because of my injury, this is the biggest blessing I’ll ever have and I’ll remember this forever.”

With their usual starters of Evanne Turner, Cierra Hall, Kayla Konrad, Sage Stobbart and Sydney Burns, the UC Davis Women’s Basketball team took the floor against the Sacramento State Hornets, who held a 2-2 record coming into the game. At 1-2 the Aggies struggled in their first couple games following the offseason. With a lot of firepower on both sides, this matchup looked like it had a lot to give. 

“The rivalry with Sac State and UC Davis for both the men and women is just a lot of fun,” said UC Davis women’s basketball head coach Jennifer Gross. “We’re really grateful to participate in this.”

Although the Hornets controlled the tip, the Aggies came out firing, as some three point shooting put them up 13-3 in the first five minutes of playing time. Coming out of the timeout, the Hornets knew that the high powered Aggie offense needed to be controlled early, so they moved into a zone defense in addition to more attacking defense. This worked, as Sacramento State would hold the Aggies to just three more points the rest of the first quarter. Still, the Hornets were unable to beat the stifling UC Davis defense and only scored two points of their own, making it 16-5 at the end of one. 

The second quarter saw the Aggies change up their offensive play, calling a little as the emphasis was now put on getting the ball inside the paint and letting redshirt senior Sage Stobbart and redshirt junior Lena Svanholm either get the post up, or pass it out for an open three. Makes from beyond the arc by Sanders, Konrad and Stobbart blew this game out of the water, as the score was 31-12 near halftime. On the Sacramento State side, missed shots — both open and contested — could not find the bottom of the net as graduate transfer Lianna Tillman was 2-10 in the first half. Tillman went into the game as the Hornet’s leading scorer with over 20 points per game, so the Aggies made sure to not let her get going. 

With the halftime score of 35-19, Stobbart was doing it all with 11 points, four rebounds and two blocks. As a team, they shot 44% from the field but also held Sacramento State to 7-30 shooting from the field. Again, UC Davis came out of the half firing, getting out to a quick 6-0 run that made it a 22 point game. 

“They were in the gym all week getting shots up,” said Gross. “It was nice to see us knocking down shots tonight.” 

UC Davis Aggies Women’s Basketball celebrating as they face Sacramento Hornets at Golden 1 Arena in Sacramento (Benjamin Cheng/Aggie)

But as the UC Davis women’s basketball team has shown in the early games, the scoreless streak struck again midway through the third quarter. Yet, their suffocating defense did not allow the Hornets to chip away at the lead and eventually led to a 13-1 run to close the third quarter, capped off by a Cierra Hall three as the buzzer sounded to make it a 58-26.

Complete domination was the story in this one even through three quarters, but the Aggies kept their foot on the gas. With three made three pointers in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, they proved to be too much for Sacramento State who searched for some kind of answer. 

The answer would never come, as UC Davis cruised to a dominating 75-46 victory over their Causeway rival, moving the win streak against the Hornets to five straight games. Sage Stobbart was the leading scorer for the Aggies, with 14 points in addition to eight rebounds and three blocks. Cierra Hall added 12 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals while Kayla Konrad had 12 points (all from three), four assists and three rebounds. As a team UC Davis shot 13-27 from three point range and 28-56 from the field while holding Sacramento State to 16-57 from the field and 5-23 from beyond the arc.

“Like Makaila said, it was awesome,” said Konrad. “We’ve come to the boys games before and we always hoped it would be us, so it’s just full circle being here. I know the whole team was super excited and to come out with a win makes it even better.” 

In their first Causeway Classic since 2019, the UC Davis Women’s basketball team delivered a resounding win they hope put them back on track. Despite a shaky start to the season, the win against Sacramento State and the win at home against Weber State on Nov. 26 could be the catalysts as they count down non conference play against some of the better teams in the country like Oregon, Gonzaga and Stanford. 

“We’re trying to challenge ourselves,” said Gross. “We’re trying to bring exciting teams to the area but more than anything, we’re just trying to put a product on the floor where the kids are playing hard, they’re playing selfless basketball and they are fun to watch.” 


UC Davis men’s basketball late rally falls short

In the second half of the double header at Golden 1 Center, the UC Davis men’s basketball team took the floor to battle the Hornets. With a vibrant energy in the crowd, both teams took the floor. Entering the game with a record of 2-1 and big wins against Utah State and Eastern Washington, the Aggies were favored in this rivalry matchup.

“I can’t thank the Kings organization enough,” said UC Davis men’s basketball head coach Jim Les. “It’s unique and special. Really grateful. I think it’s a sign of how committed they are to the community and to local schools, so we appreciate that.” 

The Hornets won the opening tip and opened the scoring, jumping out to a 4-0 advantage early. Still, this matchup was a physical one on both sides of the floor, as both teams’ adrenaline was showing early, flying around to defend. After over four minutes of action, the score was tied at four and both teams started shooting poorly from the field. Sacramento State began 1-7 from the field while UC Davis only converted one field goal of their own. The Aggies’ second field goal wouldn’t come until Cameron Ba made his presence felt with over 11 minutes remaining in the first half.

Sloppy play proved to be the achilles heel for the Ags as the turnover margin continued to grow as the half went on. Still, their defense provided the Hornets with some struggles as they also failed to pull away throughout this Aggie drought. After Kane Milling scored the sides’ first three pointer to make it 12-16, fourth-year junior Caleb Fuller’s basket and the foul provided a spark that UC Davis desperately needed. 

With Sac State holding on to an 18-15, they suddenly hit a burst. A 7-0 forced Coach Jim Les to call a timeout to momentarily stop the bleeding. But, that run would eventually turn into a 18-1 run in over five minutes of play to give the Hornets a 20 point lead in the blink of an eye. A jumper by Fuller stopped the run, and the Aggies moved into a press defense to try and chip away the lead. In the final 8:34 of the first half, the Hornets would outscore the Aggies 23-8 and went into the break with a 41-23 lead. 

“They were physical, they pressured us,” said Les. “I thought we were soft and unaggressive with our passes from A to B, our ability to come and catch it, be physical. They contested everything we tried to do. We had some good looks at the rim that didn’t go in. We were reacting consistently to their aggressiveness and that is usually not a recipe for success for us.”

UC Davis Aggies Mens Basketball faceing against Sacramento Hornets at Golden 1 Arena in Sacramento (Benjamin Cheng/Aggie)

Only shooting 33% from the field at half and committing 12 turnovers led UC Davis into a difficult hole. Star guard Ezra Manjon was held to one point and was 0-5 from the field. It was Fuller (eight points, two rebounds) and Christian Anigwe (seven points and five rebounds) who led the team at the break. On the Sac State side, they were shooting 17-35 from the field despite their slow start and scored 16 points off turnovers. Hornet senior Bryce Fowler led both sides with 13 points to go along with six rebounds and four assists. 

It was clear that UC Davis needed a spark and they needed it fast coming out of the break. But, the Hornets picked up right where they left off, coming out to a quick 6-0 spurt. Manjon restored order, knocking down a jumper but another Hornet three in the first four minutes of action led to Coach Les calling a timeout. Coming out of said timeout, the Aggies had life, cutting the deficit to 18 with over 11 and a half to play. 

As both teams crossed the 10 minute mark of play in the half, they both went cold. With countless opportunities to cut into the deficit while the Hornets went scoreless, the Aggies were unable to and it became a 65-49 game with only 5:45 remaining. UC Davis made it interesting once again, as a Ba three pointer made it a 13 point game, but costly missed free throws by Elijah Pepper and Milling on a one-and-one hurt the Aggies chances. Still, Pepper went back to the line and sank both, making it an 11 point game with under 3:30 to go. But, Sacramento State guard Zach Chappell made it a 14 point game once again and consecutive turnovers by the Aggies ultimately sealed the game for the Hornets. 

“I thought [Sac State] was really good. I thought we were out coached, outplayed,” said Les. “They did an excellent job of being the aggressor tonight and they took us out of what we wanted to do offensively. We didn’t have many answers for what they did offensively and how we defended them. They were the aggressor all night and to the aggressor goes the prize of the W, so credit to them.”

Fuller led all Aggies in points with 16 to go along with four rebounds. Pepper had 10 points and 8 rebounds of his own, but struggled at times from the field, as did Manjon with 9 points. As a team, the Aggies shot under 40% from the field in their second straight loss and lost 17 turnovers which turned into 21 Sacramento State points. 

After another loss on Nov. 28 to Academy of Art, UC Davis must find some answers as they prepare for conference play. As they have shown early, the talent is there and only time will tell which adjustments will be made as they close out non conference play. 


Written by: Omar Navarro — sports@theaggie.org


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