Even with the Big West Conference’s leading scorer Corey Hawkins confined to the sidelines with various injuries, the UC Davis men’s basketball team still managed to light up the scoreboards at The Pavilion on Saturday night.
The Aggies shot 56.8 percent from the floor and connected on 10 shots from 3-point range as they rolled to a 79-72 victory over UC Riverside.
Hawkins was injured Thursday night when he lost his balance and fell during a drive to the basket midway through the second half of a loss to CS Fullerton. Hawkins (22.4 points per game) smacked the back of his neck on a photographer’s camera, but was cleared by team
doctors and returned to action, finishing with 22 points. But the pain in his neck, as well as in his Achilles’ — which he also strained on Thursday night — persisted and UCD opted to sit him out against the Highlanders.
Hawkins was replaced in the starting lineup by Tyler Les, who knocked down a trio of 3-pointers and added 12 points overall to the onslaught while dishing out a team-high seven assists.
The Aggies also got 20 points and eight rebounds from center J.T. Adenrele and 17 points — including four treys — from Ryan Sypkens as they improved to 8-11 and 4-4 in Big West Conference play.
The Highlanders (5-15, 2-6) kept the game in reach for the first 12 minutes of the contest, before unraveling on defense. They allowed the locals to get to the free-throw line 29 times for 19 points and fell behind by as many as 19 in the second half.
Afterward, UCD head coach Jim Les praised not only his team’s offensive performance, but its effort on the defensive end of the floor.
“The challenge wasn’t for one guy to step up, but the challenge was for everyone to step up and do a little bit more and shoulder some added responsibility,” Les said. “And I thought the guys did that.
“I thought the defensive execution and pressure from the get-go was really, really good and that created some really good offense for us, getting stops and getting the ball out and running.”
The Aggies started to speed the game up near the end of the first half.
With his team down 17-14 with eight minutes left in the period, Tyler Les slipped around a screen and buried a 3-pointer. Adenrele followed with a three-point play, Sypkens struck from deep, and before the Highlanders could get a grip on the game, UCD was in the midst of 27-13 run that made it 41-30 at halftime.
The Aggies continued to pour it on in the second half, getting trey after trey from Les and Sypkens and dunks and free throws from Adenrele. Even point guard Paolo Mancasola, who is known mostly as a distributor, got into the act, hitting a quick jumper from the top of the key that gave UCD a 68-49 lead — biggest of the game — with 6:48 to play.
The Aggies were able to cruise the rest of the way, and look ahead to what is shaping up to be a tough road trip.
After a bye on Thursday, UCD travels to Pacific (5-2 in conference) for a 7:30 p.m. matchup on Saturday before playing at UC Santa Barbara and at Cal Poly the week after.
All three teams would be in the Big West tournament if it started today as would the Aggies. The three games could go a long way to deciding if UCD can hold onto its postseason spot and if it can challenge for a first-round home game.
Fortunately for the Aggies, Hawkins is expected to be healthy in time for all three contests.
Notes: Mancasola finished with 10 points and four assists. … Josh Ritchart added 13 points and five rebounds. … For the Highlanders, Josh Fox had a game-high 22 points and added nine boards.