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Saturday, April 20, 2024

UC Davis men’s basketball suffers tough loss at the hands of UC San Diego

Aggies break winning streak with the first loss in four games

 

By MI’ZAUNI REESE — sports@theaggie.org

 

With an overall successful season so far, the UC Davis men’s basketball team has secured a 9-2 record and numerous Big West Conference acknowledgments. With an average score of 72 points per game, it is clear that the Aggies are here to make a name for themselves in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) league. However, after last season’s 76-66 win against UC San Diego in 2023, the Tridents came back with a vengeance.

Held at the University Credit Union Center, the game proved to be a fierce matchup between the Aggies and the Tridents. A few minutes into the first half, the Tridents held a small seven-point lead but, not letting the rough start discourage them, the Aggies came back fighting. 

Their defense was consistently aggressive, with numerous blocks and steals in an attempt to avoid giving up more points in the first half, and has proven to be one of the strongest parts of the team — contrasting significantly from last season’s defense that lacked a strong, united front. 

For the majority of the game, the Aggies were biting at the ankles of the Tridents as they remained only a few points behind the lead. The end of the first half resulted in a 36-38 score, making it anyone’s game. Trying to start the second half off with a bang, Elijah Pepper, a fifth-year sociology major with an emphasis in law and society, immediately scored a three-pointer at the start of the clock, setting a resilient tone for the Aggies. 

However, the Aggies weren’t the only team set on leaving the U Center with a win. UC San Diego’s defense was revived following halftime as they held their ground firmly against all UC Davis attacks. As the second half progressed, UC Davis’ energy waned as UC San Diego continued to score multiple points back to back. The once-resilient Aggies started to see the win disappear. In the end, the final score was 92-59: a win for the Tridents, and a tough home-court loss for the Aggies.

Nonetheless, the game was not without success. Ty Johnson, a third-year communications major, was not only an offensive star in the game but a defensive anchor as well. Johnson scored a little under half of the total points against the Tridents with his ability to get to the other side of the court in a mere second. Additionally, Elijah Pepper, who was recently awarded Athlete of the Week by the Big West Conference, was the team’s second-highest scorer. 

“The greatest improvement since last season is our defensive gameplay for sure,” Pepper said. “It allows us to hold up much better against other Division I teams because of our team chemistry and unity. It has improved our overall performance.” 

Following the match, Pepper reminisced on the team’s performance as well as his own this season. 

“Last year we had nine new guys,” Pepper said. “Playing [together] for the first time, really, ever in a season was really difficult. Lots of ups and downs. But, after last season, as well as the summer session, the team was able to bond and we now know exactly what we want to do compared to last year. It has helped everything from defense, to winning, to even just knowing how a guy feels about certain things and being able to assist him on and off the court.” 

 As a fifth-year student, Pepper wanted to stay for one last season due to his commitment to what he sees as a winning team.

“I want to be a part of a team that I feel is capable of winning a championship, which would be forever remembered in the UC Davis men’s basketball legacy,” Pepper said. 

After winning both of their Big West Conference games earlier this year, Pepper was recognized as Player of the Week for his strong performance among his fellow athletes. Not only has this award meant publicity for himself, but it has also drawn the public’s attention to his team, as they are now known as a force to be reckoned with in the NCAA.

 

Written by: Mi’Zauni Reese — sports@theaggie.org

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