Only four games remain for the UC Davis men’s basketball team, and each looms large.
Thursday’s tip-off with Cal Poly ( 7 p.m. at The Pavilion) and Saturday’s nationally televised contest with UC Santa Barbara (5 p.m. on ESPN2) provide local fans last chances to see their hometown heroes.
After this weekend, the Aggies head to UC Riverside (March 6) and UC Irvine (March 8) to complete the regular season.
With UCR (8-19, 3-10) a half-game behind UCD (8-19, 3-9) in the Big West Conference standings, whichever of those two squads falters down the stretch will “earn” the ignominious honor of finishing last in league, missing the league’s postseason tournament.
“Our defense has been markedly better,” Aggie coach Jim Les told The Enterprise. “A couple of different bounces and a couple of shots go in that usually go in for us … there are different (results lately).”
UCD is coming off an 86-77 loss at Hawaii on Saturday and is once again mired in a losing streak — this time four straight.
However, that loss at Honolulu saw the Aggies close to within seven points after falling behind by as many at 18. They got another sterling 29-point performance from leader Corey Hawkins and saw junior big man Clint Bozner play his best collegiate game.
Bozner said his career-high 16 points were merely a byproduct of doing his job inside.
“I had no clue about how many points I scored,” Bozner told the media afterward. “I just wanted to run our offense and score whenever I saw Hawaii send the wrong player to guard me. When there was a mismatch, all I wanted to do is score … or look for wide-open teammates whenever there was a switch (in Hawaii’s defense).”
Cal Poly — which took it on the chin at home when UCD went to San Luis Obispo on Jan. 30 and upset the Mustangs — is 10-16 overall and 6-7 in Big West play.
The Gauchos (18-7, 9-3) are in a first-place tie with UC Irvine (18-7, 9-3).
Tickets for both games are still available, according to school officials.
Aggie fans are reminded, however, to note the early start time (5 p.m.) for the Saturday ESPN2 game.
Meanwhile, UCD’s women snapped a three-game losing streak by beating Hawaii, 56-52, on Saturday. The Aggies will venture to first-place Cal Poly on Thursday (7 p.m.) then to the Thunderdome for a Saturday 2 p.m. game against UCSB (8-17, 3-9).
The Aggies (11-14, 6-6) sit in a fifth-place tie with UCI and hope to catch fourth-place Long Beach State (15-11, 7-5). A fourth-place finish would provide the locals with a Big West Tournament first-round bye.
Was that a watershed win over the Rainbow Wahine (14-11, 8-5)?
“Absolutely,” said Aggie sophomore post Alyson Doherty. “We’ve been talking about it … go out and play with nothing to lose; play hard every game and our season gets turned around.”
Doherty was huge down the stretch, teaming with Idit Oryon and Celia Marfone in pestering visiting Hawaii into missing 11 of its last 12 shots.
Doherty scored 15 points while Sydnee Fipps canned 22, taking over the 11th spot on UCD’s all-time scoring list. The former Yosemite High standout is just a junior and is averaging 18 ppg.
“This was a big one for us,” third-year head coach Jennifer Gross said of Saturday’s victory. “This gives us confidence to know we can do this — and we will do this.”
Notes: Cal Poly is tied with Cal State Northridge (13-14, 9-3) atop the Big West. … Kelsey Harris, who transferred to town from Iowa State, is one 3-pointer from tying Kimberly Smith (72) for third-most treys in Aggie history. … UCD’s 52-point defensive effort against Hawaii marked its lowest Division I opponents’ point total of the season. … From the Whoda Thunk It? Dept.: When the Aggie men travel to UC Riverside, UCD almost assuredly will need a W to keep postseason hopes alive. On Jan. 16, the locals lost to the Highlanders, 81-69, at The Pavilion. … UCD’s men have been taking decent care of the ball (only 11 turnovers at Hawaii) and 12 of the Aggies’ 23 baskets in that game came off of assists.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-320-4456.