This was a team effort.
With reserve players scoring 32 points, UC Davis men handled visiting Air Force, 80-74, on Saturday and snapped a seven-game losing streak in the process.
A crowd of 802 at The Pavilion watched as the Aggies overcame a 38-34 halftime deficit to lead by as many as 13 in the second half.
In putting up its first “W” since Nov. 23 versus Loyola (Chicago), UCD (4-9) had some unexpected help in getting ready for the Falcons (6-5).
“This win belongs to Jen Gross,” Aggie boss Jim Les said afterwards.
Jennifer Gross? The school’s women’s coach? That Jen Gross?
Yep. See, Air Force runs the same Princeton offense as the UCD women.
Les invited his team’s distaff counterparts to practice Friday and work with the men.
“(Gross) was gracious enough to allow her team to come and do that,” explained Les, whose guys worked against the patient, back-door-running scheme of former Princeton and Sacramento Kings coach Pete Carril. “Our guys saw it first-hand and it gave them a really good understanding.
“We had just two days’ practice and for us to replicate what they spend hours doing, there was just no way.
“The women came out and they attacked us with a vengeance … and I thought our guys did a great job of mentally understanding how the offense works and the cuts they needed to take away. So Jen gets this win.”
While Gross got a “first” win beating Houston Baptist in the overtime opener of Saturday’s doubleheader, it was the all-hands-on-deck approach that carried the Aggie men in the second game.
Corey Hawkins, once again, paced UCD with 20 points.
Ryan Sypkens, one of the nation’s top shooters a year ago, went 4-for-9 from Three-Point Land in scoring 17 points. It was the senior’s biggest point total since tallying 25 on Nov. 11 in a home win over Holy Names.
Iggy Nujic played well at both ends of the court, holding Falcon post Kamryn Williams (seven points) in check and contributing 12 points of his own.
Avery Johnson scored four points, pulled down four rebounds, dished out three assists and got in Air Force’s way whenever possible.
San Diego freshman Brynton Lemar had a team-high six assists and scored eight points.
Freshman forward Georgi Funtarov had six boards and six points.
Inside force Clint Bozner went 3-for-4 from the field, hit both his free throws and grabbed three rebounds. His eight points equaled his season high.
Just before halftime — and going through the first couple of minutes of the second period — UCD went on an 11-2 run that turned the game in its favor.
Yet, with Falcons Justin Hammonds and Tre’ Coggins being the biggest pests, Air Force stayed close.
Hammonds and Coggins scored 20 points each and the visitors actually went ahead, 46-45, when Max Yon buried a 3-pointer off Coggins’ assist.
But a Funtarov tip-in was followed by a diving Bozner steal and outlet pass to Hawkins, who then canned his own trey with 13:31 to go.
The plays marked the beginning of a fateful 17-3 UCD blitz.
Les praised the effort of his benchmen and thought the defense is showing some improvement.
“I told the guys before San Jose State that we had two of our best defensive practices,” Les explained. “And we played 20 minutes of our best basketball against San Jose State (an 87-81, triple-overtime road loss).
“Thursday … was more of a mental practice. (Friday), the attention to detail was really good. They stay on this course, day to day, working hard, bringing great energy and enthusiasm and focus, the way we’re going … this team is going to have some fun and wins some games.”
Focus? Energy? Enthusiasm?
As evidenced by UCD’s 32-6 advantage off the bench and 15-0 edge in fast-break points, this little bit of home cooking might be just what the doctor ordered.
Notes: Furman comes to town on Dec. 30 (7 p.m.) and Simpson is part of the final men’s-women’s doubleheader of the season (4:45 and 7 p.m.). … Josh Ritchart (leg) did not play and is still listed as “day-to-day” by Les. … Air Force was coming off a 62-52 win at Big West Conference member UC Riverside. … In the loss at San Jose State on Wednesday, for the first time in Division I school history, the Aggies had six players score in double figures: Hawkins (18), Darius Graham (career-high 16), Nujic (12), Funtarov (12), Lemar (11) and Sypkens (11).
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at email@example.com or 530-320-4456.