SAN LUIS OBISPO — Though it was still a close contest, it looked like UC Davis was headed for another loss at Mott Athletics Center, a gym in which the Aggies hadn’t won a men’s basketball game since 2009.
But back-to-back 3-pointers from sharpshooter Ryan Sypkens gave the Aggies a two-point lead with 1:48 remaining in Thursday’s Big West Conference matchup, another trey by Corey Hawkins on the next possession extended the advantage to five, and UCD held on for a 62-58 victory.
“Corey and Ryan are our veterans,” said Aggie coach Jim Les. “They have been in numerous late-game situations and we feel comfortable with the ball in their hands.”
Led by Hawkins, who finished with a team-high 16 points, UCD (7-14, 2-4) sent the Mustangs (8-12, 4-3) to their second straight home loss after they had won 16 consecutive home games against Big West competition.
“Our guys battled and they made big plays on both ends of the floor,” Les added. “The guys have played well on defense throughout the last two weeks at practice; we just needed that effort to show up on game day and earn a positive result.”
With just under a minute remaining and the Aggies ahead by five, Cal Poly scored on consecutive possessions to pull within one with 38 seconds left. But UCD stepped up on defense, preventing the Mustangs from scoring again, and drained 3-of-4 free throws to seal the win.
“Corey and Ryan made some big threes, and we hit our free throws late,” Les said. “Our comeback started and ended on defense. We made key stops on one end, made that extra pass on offense and forced Cal Poly’s zone to work hard on the other end.”
Also aiding the Aggies’ comeback effort was the play of Avery Johnson, who recorded all 11 of his points throughout the second half, a period UCD entered at a seven-point disadvantage.
“Avery made an impact on (Thursday’s) game with the way he played defense,” Les added. “When we needed them the most, he was able to collect huge rebounds.”
With Cal Poly focusing its effort on defense on Hawkins and Sypkens in the first 20 minutes of action, Georgi Funtarov kept the Aggies within striking distance until halftime.
Funtarov was responsible for 10 of UCD’s 21 points scored before the break, but the Aggies still trailed 28-21.
Halfway through the second half, UCD went on a 7-0 scoring run to take the lead with 10:10 remaining in the game. During that stretch, Johnson scored five of his team’s seven unanswered points.
In front of a raucous crowd of 2,242, nine lead changes and two tied scores took place before the duo of Hawkins and Sypkens silenced everyone with their three-point heroics.
Notes: The Aggies, who posted their first true road win of the season on Thursday, will continue their Central California trip on Saturday with a 4 p.m. league matchup at UC Santa Barbara. The Gauchos defeated visiting UC Irvine, 80-60, on Thursday. The two teams are tied at the top of the Big West with 4-2 records. … In another conference matchup Thursday, Cal State Northridge nipped UC Riverside, 93-89, in overtime.