YOLO COUNTY NEWS

Aggies

Gauchos have too much firepower for the UCD men

By January 6, 2011

Enterprise corespondent

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This one was a Gaucho ouch-o.

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The UC Davis men\’s basketball team couldn\’t handle defending Big West Conference Champion UC Santa Barbara\’s prolific offense in a 77-65 loss on Thursday at The Pavilion.

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The loss dropped the Aggies to 6-9 overall and 1-2 in league play, while the Gauchos improved to

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8-5, including 1-1 in the Big West.

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“It\’s always fun to play the best,” UCD head coach Gary Stewart said. “Overall, I think we did things well offensively.”

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But on defense, the Aggies had a tough time slowing James Nunnally and Orlando Johnson, the conference\’s two leading scorers, as well as the 7-foot-3 Hungarian barbarian, Greg Somogyi. Because of Somogyi\’s constant proximity to the rim, UCD was forced to double or triple-team him whenever he received the ball, opening up opportunities for UCSB\’s dangerous sharpshooters.

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In a game that was closer than the final margin suggests, the Aggies played well throughout much of the contest. Freshman center Mike Kurtz opened his first Big West home game with a 3-pointer after winning the tip-off, one of three treys he would convert in the first half.

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The teams traded leads in the opening minutes, as neither Aggie star Joe Harden or the Gauchos\’ Johnson performed at their expected level before halftime. UCSB almost broke the game open when Jordan Weiner converted a four-point play, and the momentum swung hard in the Gauchos\’ favor, 35-31.

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But UCD hung tough as sophomore Ryan Sypkens stole the ball from Nunnally and dished to Eddie Miller, who threw down a two-handed slam to keep things close and light up both the scoreboard and in the atmosphere in the gym.

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The Aggies kept plugging away and by the time they galloped into the locker room for halftime, the UCSB lead was 41-37. At the break, Kurtz led the team with 11 points, while Sypkens had 10 with three steals.

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UCD actually did well to stay with the red-hot Gauchos, who nailed 7-of-10 3-point attempts, and outrebounded the Aggies, 15-8.

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But even as UCSB\’s long-range shooting cooled down in the second half, UCD began to crumble.

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Johnson began to find his rhythm, teaming with Nunnally to re-form the Gauchos\’ dynamic duo. The Aggies, on the other hand, were missing one half of their star senior pair — Harden and Mark Payne — with Payne on the bench in street clothes because of a leg injury.

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As they started to fall behind, the Aggies resorted to desperately heaving up treys despite being well-guarded. UCD shot just 4-of-15 from behind the arc in the second half after a first period where it went 5-of-12.

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“I thought we rushed. Santa Barbara flies at perimeter shooters,” Stewart said. “If we have the opportunity to take a three, and it\’s one of our good shooters, we\’re going to take it. We were just kind of anxious … in the second half.”

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Overall, the Aggies had four players score in double figures, and were paced by Miller\’s 18 points and six rebounds.

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Johnson led the Gauchos with 21 points — 16 of them after intermission — while Nunnally added 17 and 9 rebounds.

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Miller threw down another dunk after a steal by Ryan Silva, hoping to energize the crowd for a late comeback, but UCD could not cut the deficit below four.

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The Aggies will have a chance to bounce back on Saturday, as they host Cal Poly, who won a slugfest at Pacific, 43-39 on Thursday. Tip-off at The Pavilion is 7 p.m.

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“If we get a win against Cal Poly, we\’ll be good,” Miller promised. “(The season\’s) a marathon, not a sprint.”

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Notes: UCSB head coach Bob Williams directed UCD for eight years, leading the Aggies to the Division-II national championship in 1998. .. A Josh Ritchart jumper yielded UCD\’s only points off the bench in the first half. … Miller, a junior transfer from Cal, has caught fire for the Aggies this season, recording at least 20 points three different times, in addition to Thursday\’s 18-point output.

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— Reach Benjy Egel at [email protected]

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Benjy Egel

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