Jim Les is all about defending home court.
The UC Davis men’s basketball coach wasn’t happy after a 75-65 loss to visiting Furman on Dec. 30. He also thinks his guys could’ve gotten it done on a couple other occasions this season at The Pavilion.
Now, after suffering through an 0-2 road trip to open Big West Conference play, there is no margin for error as the Aggies play three straight at home.
Thursday, UC Riverside (0-2, 5-11) comes to town for a 7 p.m. tip-off.
Coming off of a 99-74 loss at Long Beach State on Saturday, Les was clear about what his 5-12 squad has to do:
“We need to clean some things up, put (the 49er game) aside and win some games at home.”
In a monumental meltdown (blowing a 44-40 lead at the intermission), UCD missed its first 12 second-half shots, committed five turnovers and watched Long Beach dance off to a 30-0 run.
That is no misprint. A 30-0 run.
The Jekyll-and-Hyde performance was easy to dissect.
“We played a really good first half because everyone contributed, everybody played to their role and strengths,” Les said. “In the second half, I thought we got away from that. You cannot afford to do that, especially on the road.”
Ditto for The Pavilion, coach.
In that Furman loss, the Aggies shot 36.8 percent while their visitors hit for 51.9 percent. UCD lost contact with the Paladins during a 46-37 second half.
Defense — getting rebounds off opponents’ misses and making stops — has been the deficiency according to Les. The Aggies have been torched for an average of 94 points in that 0-2 conference start.
The problem under the boards doesn’t get any easier with the Highlanders in town.
Taylor Johns, a 6-foot-7 forward, is averaging 8.6 rebounds with his 12.8 points per game. At 6-10, Aussie Chris Patton gets 6.6 caroms a night and is putting in 12.6 points.
For UCD, which hosts Cal State Fullerton on Saturday (7 p.m.), Corey Hawkins — the conference’s leading scorer a year ago — is hitting for 17.8 ppg while gunner Ryan Sypkens seems to be heating up (21 points at Long Beach).
Also burning up the courts for the Aggies is women’s sharpshooter Kelsey Harris, whose late 3-pointer on Saturday sent UCD to a 63-60 home win over LBSU.
With the win, the locals now sport a 5-9 overall record and are 1-1 in the Big West heading into Thursday’s 7 p.m. road game at UC Riverside (4-11, 0-2).
The UCD women then play at Fullerton (5-9, 1-0) on Saturday before heading to Hawaii on Jan. 23 (9 p.m. PST).
Notes: Alumni Weekend will feature a private gathering for former Aggie basketball players with festivities continuing at Saturday’s 7 p.m. men’s outing against Fullerton. Alumni interested in participating should contact UCD assistant men’s coach Kevin Nosek at 530-752-3501 or firstname.lastname@example.org. … Sophomore post Alyson Doherty continues her solid inside play for the Aggie women. She’s averaging 10.6 ppg and six boards a night. … Harris is the Big West’s top 3-point shooter (44-of-111 for 39.6 percent) and Sydnee Fipps is No. 4 in scoring at 17.3 ppg. … Cal Poly’s Jonae Ervin is the conference’s women’s Player of the Week after scoring a career-high 37 points in a 78-74 overtime win at Hawaii.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at email@example.com or 530-320-4456.