UC Davis used the break to put together some of the best basketball Aggies fans have seen this season. After a hard loss at Stanford, the team bounced back to craft an exhilarating win over Eastern Washington at home.
Junior Tyler Les spearheaded the Aggies offensive performance, scoring 18 of the team’s 87 points against the Eagles. Sophomore J.T. Adenrele followed up his impressive performance at Stanford with his first career double-double, landing 13 points and 10 rebounds. Five Aggies scored more than 10 points and head coach Jim Les was most impressed by his team’s knack for spreading the ball around.
“To have 21 assists … that tells me we have a very unselfish team,” Les said.
The win over Eastern Washington broke UC Davis’ four-game losing streak. The Aggies came out with incredible energy and the team’s chemistry is clearly improving.
UC Davis followed it up with another win against Southern Illinois on the road. The 78-70 victory over the Salukis marked Adenrele’s second double-double in a row. It also gave the explosive sophomore, Corey Hawkins, a chance to bank in another 20 points for the Aggies. Senior Ryan Howley continues to dominate the rebounding advantage and set a tournament record with the 15 boards he grabbed during the game.
Coach Les was proud of his squad for muscling a victory. He applauded Adenrele’s work ethic and the resulting improvements but he knows his team has more to give.
“You can see J.T. [Adenrele] start blossoming with confidence. He has tremendous potential,” he said.
Les was glad Adenrele and the rest of the team found a way to win despite not playing their best basketball.
“We found a way to win when we did not play our best; that is a sign of our team maturing,” he said.
Unfortunately, the Aggies’ winning streak was halted here. They were bested in their next contest, losing 73-61 against Utah State. UC Davis had a strong first-half performance, leading 40-39 as they entered the halftime break.
They lost some of their energy and accuracy during the second period, allowing Utah to go on some runs that gave them the win.
One positive was the performance of sophomore Clint Bozner. He scored a career-high 11 points, and tallied three blocks on the defensive side of the paint. His energy gave UC Davis some much needed life in the second half.
“[Bozner] gave us some great production, that is a credit to him. I do not know where we would have been tonight if not for him,” Les said.
The Aggies bounced back to earn a win over Nicholls State and close the Utah tournament with a 2-1 record.
Once again, UC Davis had a monster second half, scoring 52 of their 82 points after the break. Junior Ryan Sypkens gave a clinic on three-point shooting, scoring 18 of his 28 points from beyond the arc. He also went 4-4 from the free-throw line, the only Aggie to shoot 1.000 from the line that day.
Sypkens was one of four Aggies to top 10 points on the day. He was joined by Hawkins, who tallied 19 points, and junior Josh Ritchart and senior Ryan Howley, who each banked 10 points.
Howley also added another 11 rebounds, earning a total of 38 throughout the tournament. This shattered the previous record of 33.
This win was a direct result of the one-two punch of defense and offense that Coach Les has been trying to develop all season long.
“I thought the guys faced some adversity in the second half and really dug down to find a way to win this game. That is what it takes at this level. When you play hard on one end to get stops, and make the extra pass on the other end, good things will happen,” Les said.
UC Davis left the Utah tournament to begin Big West conference play. The Aggies traveled down to Irvine to play against the conference rival Anteaters.
Hawkins scored 21 points for the Aggies, marking his 11th game that he has scored in the double digits for UC Davis this season.
The game was certainly a hard-fought contest. The last seven minutes were back and forth, where neither team was able to earn a lead of more than two. It resulted in an overtime finish which is when the Anteaters took off and the Aggies were unable to catch them.
UC Irvine finished with a 69-58 victory which pushed UC Davis’ conference record to 0-1.
It wasn’t the conference start that the Aggies were hoping for, but they had plenty to build on for their next conference contest against Pacific.
“I told my guys that I was really proud of the way they faced adversity … we were just a couple of plays away,” Les said.
Unfortunately for UC Davis, they dropped a 74-64 decision to the Tigers on Saturday to drop them to 0-2 in conference. The Aggies will return to action on Thursday when they face off with Cal Poly in search of their first conference victory.
KIM CARR can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.