It just wasn’t their week.
The UC Davis men followed up one tough basketball loss on Thursday with another one on Saturday, falling 88-85 to UC Irvine at The Pavilion after squandering a 19-point lead on Senior Night.
Two days earlier, the Aggies (14-15, 9-9 Big West Conference) lost 77-76 to Long Beach State in the first nationally televised home game in UCD history. That game ended in heartbreaking fashion as Ryan Howley had a potential game-winning 3-point attempt pop out of the basket at the buzzer.
Saturday’s game — the last of the regular season — concluded in similar fashion, with Tyler Les just missing on a shot from beyond the arc as time expired. But this time, the Aggies seemed more frustrated than heartbroken afterwards.
And who could blame them?
UCD gave up 60 points in the second half alone, lost the rebounding battle 47-35 and allowed the Anteaters (17-14, 10-7) to score 26 second-chance points. All of that led to the Aggies blowing a 47-28 halftime lead.
“The whole game came down to our concentration and mental approach to the second half, and we started the half off unenergized and (Irvine) got on a roll,” UCD head coach Jim Les said afterward. “Once a team gets on a roll, then it’s hard to shut them off.
“And we gave up 60 points in the second half. That’s a team that’s not paying much attention on the defensive end. And we gave up 20 offensive rebounds. That’s a team that’s not willing to go to the boards and make some plays. So those are some things we’ve got to address.”
The collapse came out of nowhere as UC Irvine appeared to be on the ropes at intermission. Behind the play of J.T. Adenrele (18 points and five rebounds) and Ryan Sypkens (12 points and six boards), the Aggies connected on 45.8 percent of their shots from the field and 85.7 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc in the first half to roar out to the big lead.
They were solid defensively during that same stretch, holding Irvine to 30-percent shooting.
The only Aggie who appeared to be struggling was star scorer Corey Hawkins, who suffered from cramps late in the loss to Long Beach State and took some extra time to warm up on Saturday. He posted only five points in the first period.
Ironically, Hawkins started to click in the second half just as his team began to fall apart.
He finished with 21 points, but it wasn’t enough to stave off a furious charge by the Anteaters.
UCI connected on more than half of its shots after intermission and had four players score in double figures in the period alone. After eating away at the Aggies’ lead for much of the half, the Anteaters went up 75-74 on a layup by Michael Wilder with 2:36 left to play.
Tyler Les (six points) hit a pair of treys to try to bring his team back, but was unable connect on his attempt at a buzzer-beater.
The loss cost the Aggies the fourth seed in next week’s Big West Tournament, which went to Irvine. Now the sixth seed, UCD will take on Cal Poly in Anaheim on Thursday.
Notes: Seniors Howley (nine points and eight rebounds) and Paolo Mancasola (10 points) played their last game at The Pavilion. “That’s obviously not how we wanted it to end, but I love every single one of my teammates and it’s been the experience of a lifetime, just getting to do this and play in front of my family, play with this group of guys, so even though it hurts like it does, I’m always going to cherish these memories, the good and the bad,” Mancasola said.
— Reach Will Bellamy at firstname.lastname@example.org