The UC Davis men’s basketball team found itself in the last place it wanted to be on Thursday night — in the midst of an old-fashioned shootout with one of the highest-scoring teams in the nation.
And while the Aggies managed to keep pace with Cal State Fullerton for much of the game, they couldn’t handle the speeding Titans.
In the end, UCD, having seemingly spent every last ounce of its offensive firepower, fell 95-88 at The Pavilion.
Afterward, head coach Jim Les lamented the fact that it was inconsistent defense — not scoring ability — that truly did in the Aggies (7-11, 3-4 in Big West Conference play) against Fullerton (11-8, 4-3), the fourth-highest scoring team in the nation at 82.2 points per game.
“Defensively, I was a little disappointed,” Les said. “We knew how explosive Fullerton is. We saw it on tape. And we couldn’t get in a shootout with them. Getting into a shootout was not conducive to us having success and we gave up 95 (points) on our floor.
“We tried different kinds of defense. I just thought we never had five guys totally engaged and it takes all five guys against a really good offensive team, working in concert, with our on-the-ball defense, our off-the-ball defense and our help defense. We had breakdowns in all of those areas.”
The Aggies got 22 points from J.T. Adenrele, 22 from Corey Hawkins and 18 from Ryan Sypkens, but it wasn’t enough to cancel out the play of the Titans’ own Big Three. D.J. Seeley (32 points), Kwame Vaughn (20 points) and Sammy Yeager (16 points) torched UCD from beyond the arc and on drives in the paint throughout the game.
Early on, however, it appeared as if the efforts of the Titan trio were going to be in vain. Behind eight first period 3-pointers, the Aggies surged to a 45-40 halftime lead. They pushed their advantage to 55-47 with a little over 16 minutes to go in the second, when Josh Ritchart connected on back-to-back fade-away jumpers in the paint.
But after that, UCD began to sputter. The time between each shot made by the Aggies began to increase and gradually, the team was overtaken by Fullerton. After trading the lead with the Titans several times, the locals fell behind for good on a three-point play by Vaughn with 8:38 to play.
From there, Fullerton fended off several last-gasp pushes by UCD. With less than a minute to go, the Aggies’ final comeback attempt fizzled out when Adenrele, after making his first 10 foul shots, missed on the 11th. A make would have cut the Titans’ lead to 90-87 and given UCD a chance at a tying 3-pointer. Instead, Vaughn hit two from the charity stripe to clinch the game.
In the first half, the teams repeatedly exchanged leads until Hawkins and Tyler Les connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Aggies up before halftime.
Scoring was all that really mattered in the game as the teams came close to matching each other in nearly every statistical category outside of shooting percentage. UCD connected on 50.9 percent of its attempts, while Fullerton shot 54.8 percent.
The Aggies now look ahead to Saturday’s 7 p.m. home game against UC Riverside. A win over the Highlanders would give UCD a .500 conference record.
Notes: Ritchart was the only other Aggie in double figures with 11 points. UCD’s Ryan Howley added seven points and four rebounds, while Paolo Mancasola dished out seven assists.
— Reach Will Bellamy at firstname.lastname@example.org