Sunday, April 26, 2015

Slugs could cure UCD\’s woes

November 17, 2010 |

Enterprise staff writer


When you\’re not feeling well, there\’s nothing like home cooking … and taking just the right medicine.


Tonight, as the 0-3 UC Davis meets Division-III UC Santa Cruz (0-1), it marks the season\’s first men\’s basketball game at The Pavilion.


Not only is Aggie head coach Gary Stewart happy to be back on campus, the Banana Slugs should provide the perfect elixir for a club struggling to integrate all its new pieces.


“It\’s always good … to have your first opportunity to play at home,” Stewart said Tuesday.


The eight-year UCD coach wasn\’t thrilled with his guys\’ showing at last weekend\’s Athletes in Action Classic in Portland, Ore. But he wasn\’t upset, either. In games against Florida


Atlantic, Portland and Wisconsin-Milwaukee, each loss had the same script: Fall behind early then play inspired-but-too-late defense in the second halves.


Stewart thinks the fix is obvious — “Play better for longer periods of time” — and he understands what the problem has been.


“We\’ve put too much pressure on our defense,” coach continues. “Offensively we\’ve struggled. But we\’re trying to integrate an awful lot of different people into (the system).”


Stewart knows it\’s way too early to believe the first three games are a microcosm of what\’s ahead. Not with veterans Mark Payne and Joe Harden on the court — and a talented group of newcomers just finding their footing.


Payne\’s 17 points against Wisc.-Milwaukee put him at 1,008 for his career (17th all-time at UCD). Harden is only 53 points shy of that 1,000-Point Club. Both are expected to provide an exciting and dynamic style of ball that could cover some of the future growing pains of the duo\’s younger supporting cast.


That Harden-Payne 1-2 punch has a chance to emerge large when the Banana Slugs slither into Davis at 7 p.m. tonight.


Over the years, the two schools have met 15 times with the Aggies winning 14 games. Last year, also at The Pavilion, the Aggies rolled to an 88-59 win.


Mmmm. Santa Cruz: the perfect medicine.


The Slugs are coming off a 73-70 overtime loss at home to William Jessup, a NAIA member of the California Pacific Conference.


Competent swingman Ryan Matsuoka tallied 22 points in the loss as UCSC just couldn\’t get inside against Jessup. Santa Cruz was 11-16 last season.


UCD fared a little worse against a much better opponent last Sunday, losing 73-62 to Wisc.-Milwaukee, despite a 21-point performance by Harden.


Whittling the Panther lead down to six points on four occasions, the early double-digit deficit was too much to overcome as Wisc.-Milwaukee hit clutch free throws down the stretch.


Stewart wants more contribution, quicker, from Harden and Payne\’s support cast.


Look for play-anywhere Harden and guard Payne to continue to clean the boards (35 between them) with help inside from forward Todd Lowenthal (15 rebounds). Sophomore Ryan Sypkens, a Franklin High graduate, averaged eight points a game on the trip north, but these veterans are probably champing at the bit to see the four Aggie freshman develop.


Alex Tiffin, a 6-foot-9 forward from Thousand Oaks, started every game in Portland, while swingman Josh Ritchart (Forest Hills Christian of Auburn), Tyler Les (a forward from Peoria, Ill.) and center/forward Mike Kurtz — the 7-foot standout from Woodcreek High — each played significant minutes in the first three games for UCD.


Notes: The Aggies have Boise State (1-0) at home on Sunday at 1 p.m. Last season, UCD went to Boise and best the Broncos 82-74 in an ESPNU Bracketbusters game. … The Aggies venture into Pauley Pavilion on Dec. 13 to meet UCLA. Pac-10 champion California and UCD play on Dec. 1 in Berkeley. It\’s the first time since 1986 that the two teams have met. … In the past three seasons, it has been up, up, UP for the Aggies. In 2007-08, the locals won nine games (two in conference), then in \’08-09 UCD chalked up 13 wins (seven in league). Last season the Ags went 13-19, winning eight Big West contests.


— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or (530) 747-8047. Comment on this story at




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