Aggie men need to keep up improved basketball

By From page B1 | February 19, 2014


UCD sharpshooter Ryan Sypkens (25) is just 12 treys from tying the all-time Big West record of 311 made 3-pointers as the Aggies host Long Beach State on Thursday night. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise file photo

Now this is serious.

With only six regular-season games remaining, the UC Davis men’s basketball team needs to ratchet up its improved recent play, again.

On Thursday, Long Beach State (11-14, 7-4) comes calling as the Aggies cling to a precarious half-game lead over UC Riverside for the final Big West Conference postseason tournament berth.

Both the Highlanders and UCD are 8-17, but the locals are 3-7 in league. The Highlanders dwell at the bottom with a 3-8 mark. Eight of the nine Big West teams get to play in the league tourney.

The Aggies have won three of their last seven games and that “surge” has pulled them from the abyss. During that stretch, better-looking defense has given UCD fans hope that all is not lost.

But these last six games … Oy, oy, oy.

The 49ers are tied for third in conference with Hawaii (18-7, 7-4). As luck would have it, the Aggies get to travel to the Islands for a Saturday contest with the Rainbow Warriors.

After that, Cal Poly will visit The Pavilion on Feb. 27. Remember, the Mustangs (9-15, 5-6) were upset, 62-58, in their own crib by UCD last month.

Then, UC Santa Barbara (16-7, 7-3) will be in town for a 5 p.m. March 1 game that will be featured on ESPN2. Not only are the Gauchos hoping to impress the national TV audience, they want to catch Big West leader UC Irvine (17-9, 8-2).

Meanwhile, for the Aggies, there’s no place to hide …

The season finale is with those first-place Anteaters. In a March 8 game that will be broadcast on Fox Prime Channel, host Irvine and its tree-topping cast — led by 7-foot-6 Mamadou Ndiaye — will clearly remember barely escaping The Pavilion, 61-59, on Feb. 8.

All that said, now how big is the March 6 contest at UCR?

It might be that the No. 8 seed in the Big West tourney (March 13 in Anaheim) will come down to Round 2 between an improving UCD and the still-struggling set of Highlanders. The Aggies lost to UCR, 81-69, on Jan. 18 in Davis.

Meanwhile, Aggie long-range specialist Ryan Sypkens is one 3-pointer shy of 300 for his career — and is within waving distance of becoming the Big West’s all-time behind-the-arc king.

Former Pacific sharpshooter Adam Jacobsen (1993-98) is the record-holder at 311. Next is ex-Fullerton guard Bobby Brown (2003-07) with 307. Then Sypkens.

Junior Corey Hawkins, who became the 20th Aggie to score 1,000 points (joining Sypkens in that club) when he turned the feat last week at Fullerton, has led the locals in scoring seven of the last eight games.

Meanwhile, the UCD women’s squad joins in the fight against breast cancer — and honors former Aggie Genevieve Costello — with Saturday’s “Pink Game” against visiting Hawaii (2 p.m.) at The Pavilion.

Costello lost her battle with the disease in 2013. She was 26.

According to school officials, fans are encouraged to join the Aggies and Rainbow Wahine (13-10, 7-4) in wearing pink to show their support in the fight against the disease.

But first, UCD travels Thursday to meet Long Beach State in a 7 p.m. game that will be featured on ESPN3.

Locked in a game-in, game-out battle for position in the contentious Big West, the Aggies (10-13) finds themselves in a three-way tie for fifth place with UC Irvine (12-12) and Cal State Fullerton (9-14) at 5-5. Long Beach State (14-11) is a half-game ahead in fourth at 6-5.

The top two finishers get byes in the first two rounds of the Big West Tournament. The third- and fourth-place teams get the first night off.

Notes: Those who wish to donate to the Battle Against Breast Cancer can participate by visiting https://secure.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/giving/donations/online.html. … Each Aggie woman will be sporting special game jerseys featuring “G. Costello” on the back with a patch reading “GC12.” Early arriving fans at Saturday’s game will receive pink UC Davis shirts, compliments of West Village.

—Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-320-4456.

Bruce Gallaudet

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