2014 can’t come fast enough for the UC Davis men’s basketball team.
After a 75-65 loss to visiting Furman on Tuesday, the Aggies fell to 4-10 — losers of eight of their last nine games.
Now, UCD has but one nonleague contest (Thursday vs. NAIA-member Simpson at The Pavilion) to right this ship.
Big West Conference play begins Jan. 9 at Cal State Northridge and these Aggies clearly are Not Ready for Prime Time.
Third-year coach Jim Les admitted to a level of frustration “having to deliver the same message over and over again.”
The former Bradley coach and NBA player said his team’s defense just isn’t cutting it.
Furman, coming off of a 90-60 loss at Cal on Saturday, shot 51.9 percent from the field and built a couple of 14-point leads in the second half.
“Until they’re willing to change their approach, the energy, effort, focus, enthusiasm … the results are not going to change,” Les said in a critical look at his squad’s flagging defense.
“I didn’t like our attention to detail, effort or energy on the defensive end. (Furman) made their shots, but I thought we helped them. They had direct-line drives, our help was poor … our scouting report, (noting) the tendencies of their better players, was poor.”
In, er, defense of the Aggies on this night, UCD had a pretty good starting lineup in street clothes on the bench.
In August, post whiz J.T. Adenrele (knee) went down for the season. Then, facing a glut of perimeter talent, the Aggies decided to redshirt guard Tyler Les for what would have been his senior season.
Then, Josh Ritchart — a senior forward off to the best start among all the Aggies — hurt his right leg at Utah State. He’s missed a month now and a prognosis on his immediate future has yet to come from UCD staff.
If all that wasn’t enough, guards Brynton Lemar and Olivier-Paul Betu collided in a Sunday practice. Both were out Tuesday.
Lemar (knee) and Betu (concussion) are awaiting word on the extent of their injuries.
Could Ritchart be headed for a medical redshirt?
“It’s too early to make those kinds of judgments,” Les told The Enterprise. “First and foremost, we want to get him healthy.”
Les said he is holding out hope that Ritchart returns to help during conference play.
And there were a couple of hopeful moments for UCD against the Paladins …
After falling behind 14-6 early, Aggie Iggy Nujic’s defensive board sent guard Darius Graham on his way up court.
UCD’s Ryan Sypkens — who is finally starting to heat up — knocked down a trey to give his team a 20-18 lead. When Corey Hawkins canned a free throw, the locals were up by three with 6:19 remaining in the half.
The Aggies used steals by Hawkins and Georgi Funtarov and a Sypkens 3-pointer off another Graham dish to stay in contention — down but one, 29-28, at intermission.
However Kendreac Ferrara, Furman’s 6-foot-9 forward by way of Cape Coral, Fla., fueled a 12-2 spurt after halftime and UCD found itself playing catch-up the rest of the way.
Paladin guard Stephen Croone and Hawkins went at each other most of the night, finally playing themselves to a personal draw. Croone (who averages 20.3 ppg) and Hawkins (17 ppg) each scored 17 on Monday.
Sypkens went 5-for-9 from beyond the arc to finish with 15 points, while Graham had 11 points and five assists.
Funtarov, a 20-year-old freshman from Bulgaria, tallied 13 with six rebounds.
“I thought Georgi did some really good things,” Les said. “He’s got some aggressiveness and got us going in the first. He got his hands on some balls (and) he continues to be consistent rebounding for us. I’m pleased with his progress.”
The Aggies took three more shots than Furman, hitting 21-of-57 from the field. In going 9-for-24 from 3-point range, UCD made four more treys than the Paladins.
But defense means stops. For the Aggies, stops were a rare commodity as the visitors went 28-of-54 from the floor — the difference in the game.
Notes: Furman had five players in double figures. In addition to Ferrara and Croone, Larry Wideman (15), Charlie Reddick (11) and William Gates Jr. (10) helped the Southern Conference Paladins improve to 6-7. … Gates is the son of “Hoop Dreams” star William Gates Sr. … The game was the first meeting between Furman and UCD. … In an unusual back-to-back series, Simpson (1-14) meets Walla Walla again Tuesday after losing to the Wolves, 72-71, on Monday. The Aggie/Red Hawk game will tip-off at 7 p.m. Thursday. UCD’s women meet Simpson at 4:45 p.m. in the early game of the last doubleheader of the season.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at email@example.com or 530-320-4456.