UC Davis standout Corey Hawkins has hit a couple of game-winning shots in his stellar men’s basketball career, but he also isn’t afraid to find an open teammate when the game is on the line.
And that’s exactly what Hawkins did on Thursday in overtime, kicking it to freshman Georgi Funtarov at the top of the key with less than 10 ticks left in a tie ballgame. It was from there that the 20-year-old Bulgarian nailed the game-winning 3-pointer with seven seconds left.
With a late free throw by Darius Graham providing the final margin, the Aggies won a key Big West Conference contest, 90-86, over Cal State Northridge in front of 1,637 fans at The Pavilion.
“It feels great to make a basket in a situation like this to help us win the game,” Funtarov said. “This is the biggest shot that I have made in my career. There were some times in high school when I made the game-winning basket, but those shots were nothing like this. This is a big win for us to help us climb the standings.”
The huge shot came after UCD (8-15, 3-5) had blown a 21-point lead against a Matador squad (11-13, 3-6) that entered the night just ahead of the Aggies in the Big West standings. With Cal State Fullerton also losing Thursday (72-69 at UC Riverside), UCD moved up from last place in the conference into a tie for sixth.
Hawkins scored 27 points to lead the Aggies, while senior Ryan Sypkens had 16 and Funtarov added 15. Freshman Brynton Lamar and junior Avery Johnson each finished with 12 points.
For Northridge, Stephan Hicks made 10-of-15 shots and scored 23 points, with Stephen Maxwell adding 21 and Josh Greene tallying 19.
“That’s a tough, physical team we played (Thursday),” said UCD head coach Jim Les. “We won the rebounding battle, which was big. I continue to see our team defense get better and better each game.”
Hawkins, who transferred from Arizona State after one season, went over 1,000 points for his collegiate career and now has 1,021. He needs just 28 points for 1,000 as an Aggie.
Behind hot early shooting from Johnson, who scored seven quick points, UCD raced to an 11-0 lead before stretching it to 46-25 with 2:24 to go in the first half. The Aggies went into halftime up 49-32.
But the Matadors rallied in the final 10 minutes to get within three points, then Greene’s trey with 22 seconds to go in regulation tied the game at 81-81.
“With the 3-point line in college basketball, teams have the ability to make quick runs,” Les explained. “They made their run down the stretch and made some big threes to tie the game.
“It was then when my guys dug deep, became resilient, even though momentum was clearly in CSUN’s possession. We had numerous guys make big plays on key possessions.”
Northridge led 82-81 in the extra period but UCD scored four straight on a pair of Sypkens free throws and a layup from Hawkins to go up 85-82 two minutes in. Trailing 86-84 with 25 seconds left, the Matadors equalized on a Hicks dunk.
The Aggies then worked the clock down to the final seconds before Funtarov got a good look from nearly 21 feet away and drained it.
“That young man has a lot of confidence,” Les said of Funtarov. “As a coach, I love how he is willing to step up and make a play when it is needed.”
UCD returns to Hamilton Court on Saturday, hosting UC Irvine at 7 p.m.