OK, guys. Put those shovels away. The hole is deep enough.
In another second-half collapse, the UC Davis men’s basketball team lost to visiting UC Riverside, 81-69, at The Pavilion on Thursday.
The loss was the Aggies’ third straight in opening their Big West Conference slate.
And this setback comes laced with even more bad news …
Local leading scorer Corey Hawkins was whacked in the eye and didn’t return to the floor for the final 14 minutes.
UCD, urged on by a crowd of 2,013, was cruising along with a 55-37 lead when Hawkins went to the bench.
From there, the Highlanders shifted gears for a 19-2 run, eventually passing the reeling Aggies when Taylor Johns’ lay-in made things 64-62.
UCR didn’t look back over the last 6:26.
At Long Beach on Saturday, the locals allowed the 49ers to go on a 30-0 roll at the beginning of the second half. LBSU won that one, 99-74 after the Aggies led, 44-40, at the break.
These final 20 minutes weren’t much better.
Riverside hit 17-of-24 shots after intermission — including six-of-seven from behind the arc. These are other-world figures for a team that came into town at 5-11, 1-7 on the road and 0-2 in league. The Highlanders were shooting only 29 percent from 3-point range.
“I thought we did some really good things in the first half,” UCD coach Jim Les said afterward. “Even at the start of the second half. We emphasized at halftime our defensive intensity and focus.”
That 19-point lead was thanks in part to Hawkins.
Playing in front of his father, former NBA standout Hersey, the younger Hawkins was on his way to a big game: 18 points, five assists, four steals.
With Hawkins missing, the Aggies (5-13, 0-3) had no answers.
UCR forced nine late turnovers, held UCD to 31 percent from the field after the break and eventually outscored its host 38-16 in the paint.
With freshman guard Brynton Lemar and forward Josh Ritchart out, the Aggies went into Thursday’s game with just nine healthy bodies.
Les wanted no part of using injuries as excuses.
“We have enough confidence in those remaining guys that, with the lead, they should close the game out,” Les explained. “We weren’t able to do that. It’s frustrating.”
Les did like what his 20-year-old freshman Georgi Funtarov brought to the effort.
In addition to his career-high 14 points, the 6-foot-8 forward from Sofia, Bulgaria, kept the ball alive under the basket while grabbing three boards.
“Georgi had some really good energy and was active around the ball,” Les added. “He did some nice things, so he stands out.”
But, oh, that second half …
“There’s some guys on this team that have logged a lot of minutes, so I expect them to give us some leadership — especially on the defensive end,” continued Les, who used another freshman, Sacramento High’s Darius Graham, at point guard after Hawkins’ departure. “It’s tough for me to ask a freshman to do that. I need some of our older, more experienced guys to do it … and we’re not getting it done.”
Les shed some light on the status of Lemar (knee) and Ritchart (leg):
“Brynton is getting closer every day … Josh is not getting much closer.”
Does that mean the senior Ritchart (17.3 ppg in nine outings) is headed for a medical redshirt?
“It’s not a final decision … (but) the recurring pain he’s having is walking down that road,” Les offered.
Don’t ask these Aggies what else can go wrong.
Notes: UCD shot 50 percent in building a 41-27 halftime lead. … Iggy Nujic had nine boards and 10 points while Avery Johnson got the start and tallied a career-best 12 points for the Aggies. Highlander forward Johns scored 22 points and Sam Finley (19) and Chris Patton (14) came off the bench to spark the second-half rout. … Hersey Hawkins and Les were teammates at Bradley. The senior Hawkins is player development director for the Portland Trail Blazers. … Next up for UCD is a Saturday encounter with Cal State Fullerton at 7 p.m. The Titans (6-10, 1-1) lost to UC Irvine, 72-54, Thursday. Cal Poly beat Cal State Northridge, 62-52, and UC Santa Barbara topped the 49ers, 64-51. … Guard Olivier-Paul Betu played three minutes in the first half during which he assisted on three consecutive Aggie buckets and grabbed a rebound. Ryan Sypkens was 2-for-9 from beyond the arc, scoring eight points. The senior blocked three shots, as did Clint Bozner.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-320-4456.