Teams: UC Davis vs. Cal Poly; vs. UC Santa Barbara
Records: Aggies 8-19 (3-9); Mustangs 10-16 (6-7); Gauchos 18-7 (9-3)
Where: The ARC Pavilion — Davis, Calif.
When: Thursday, Feb. 27 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, March 1 at 5 p.m.
What to watch for:
UC Davis men’s basketball is back on the national stage, with their game against the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos being broadcasted nationally on ESPN2.
The Aggies were featured on ESPN a season ago and played a thriller, losing to Big West Conference No. 1 Long Beach State after a game-winning jump shot circled the rim and fell out with time expiring.
Watch UC Davis bring energy in front of what will likely be another sold out crowd as they hope to upset the now top-ranked Gauchos.
The last time that UC Davis and Cal Poly met, the Aggies came away with their lone conference road win. UC Davis came out ahead due to an outstanding shooting night, making 48.9 percent of their shots and 45.5 percent of their three-point attempts.
The Aggies held the Mustangs to 30 percent shooting from beyond the arc and managed to win despite being outrebounded by five and allowing Cal Poly to get eight steals.
The Mustangs have proven to be a poor offensive team, with just two players scoring in double figures on the season. As a team, they shoot a bumbling 41.2 percent from the field and 33.9 percent from beyond the arc, something that should be an exploitable advantage for UC Davis.
The Aggies, meanwhile, have continued to play efficiently offensively, shooting 44.3 percent from the field. While they have also found success from beyond the arc, the team has seen a recent significant drop-off in three-point shooting. Despite a strong performance against Hawai’i by junior guard Corey Hawkins, the team endured a mini slump over the previous few games. This includes a night against Long Beach State in which the team made only three of their 22 attempts.
Against Hawai’i, UC Davis was able to get surprisingly strong production out of its big men, including a season-high 16 points for junior forward Clint Bozner.
“I just wanted to run our offense and score whenever I saw Hawai’i send the wrong player to guard me,” Bozner said.
The team has been missing the play of rangy junior forward Iggy Nujic, who was not present for the game against Long Beach State and did not travel to Hawaii for unknown reasons.
UC Davis seems to be the superior team in this game, which they must win if they want to make the Big West tournament.
The second game of the week, against UC Santa Barbara, will prove to be a much harder test.
The last time the two teams met, the Aggies were unable to contain junior forward Alan Williams, who has been outstanding all year. He totaled 27 points and a ridiculous 20 rebounds in the game, only seven fewer than the entire UC Davis squad.
On the season, Williams is averaging 22.5 points, 12 rebounds and 2.5 blocks while shooting 54.3 percent from the field and solidifying himself as a pro prospect.
The Gauchos have also been efficient from the three-point range, making 37.5 percent of their attempts from that range on the season. They have been led in this category by senior guard Kyle Boswell, who makes 2.5 threes per game on 43.4 percent shooting.
To score a win, a few things will have to happen for the Aggies. First, they are going to have to come out with a ton of energy, which should be no problem in the likely sold-out Pavilion. More importantly, they will have to force the rest of the Gauchos, beyond Williams, to have bad shooting nights. When UC Santa Barbara lost to Cal Poly, Williams scored 33 points on 57 percent shooting. It was the rest of his teammates shooting 30 percent from the field that sunk the Gauchos.
The strategy of keying in on the supplemental parts of the Gaucho’s squad is the Aggies’ best hope, especially given their season-long struggles against post players.
— Ryan Reed