The UC Davis men’s basketball team is about to make a new friend when Furman comes to town Monday night for the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
Game time is 7 p.m. for the Aggies’ next-to-last nonconference outing of the season.
Neither team sports a winning record — UCD is 4-9 and the Paladins stand at 5-7. But the Aggies won their last game, while Furman fell 90-60 on Saturday at Cal.
In its 80-74 win over visiting Air Force on Dec. 21, UCD shot 50.9 percent and held its own inside against the taller Falcons. The victory snapped a seven-game losing streak for the Aggies.
“It’s amazing when you go through a stretch where you knock a few in,” said UCD coach Jim Les. “When you see them go in, you get a little more resilient on the defensive end.”
Les’ starting lineup has received a recent shake-up — in part out of necessity with forward Josh Ritchart (leg) on the rack and in part because of outside specialist Ryan Sypkens’ cold spell.
Combinations of Iggy Nujic, Georgi Funtarov and Clint Bozner have worked to make up for Ritchart’s absence. Meanwhile, freshmen Brynton Lemar and Darius Graham have been installed at guards.
Sypkens, however, showed signs of his old self against Air Force.
The Franklin High Dead Eye came off the bench to score 17 points, hitting 4-of-9 from beyond the arc and canning all five of his free throws. Sypkens even contributed two steals, both of which the locals turned into baskets.
“We have to play hard every possession,” Les explained after a recent practice. “We have to eliminate the mental mistakes. Our margin of error shrinks when you’re missing a guy like Josh.
“The execution, the energy, the concentration have to elevate.”
Judging from the win against Air Force (6-5) and the 87-81 overtime loss to Nevada the week before, these Aggies are on the rebound.
Notes: Ritchart (17.3 points a night), who has played in nine games, leads UCD in scoring average. All-Big West guard Corey Hawkins is right behind at 17 an outing. … Talk about scoring: Furman guard Stephen Croone is scoring more than 20 ppg and leads his team in assists. But it was almost 60 years ago that former Paladin Frank Selvy set the college basketball world on its ear. The two-time All-American tallied 100 points in a Feb. 13, 1954, effort against Newberry College. It’s a Division I standard that still holds up today. … What is a Paladin? They were Charlemagne’s most-trusted and battle-tested knights. In TV’s early days, actor Richard Boone played a San Francisco character named Paladin in “Have Gun, Will Travel.” Boone’s nephew, Barry, lives in Dixon and has attended Aggie games. … Furman is in South Carolina, a member of the Southern Conference. … UCD will take part in a Thursday doubleheader with the women’s team against visiting Simpson squads. The men play at 7 p.m.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-320-4456.