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Stanford’s height presents problem for struggling UCD men

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From page B1 | December 12, 2013 | Leave Comment

1212ucdmen1

UCD's Georgi Funtarov (12) — shown going to the hoop earlier this year — must play well inside on Saturday when the Aggies go on the road to face Stanford. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise file photo

It’s a tall order for the UC Davis men as they travel to Stanford on Saturday.

The 5 p.m. game will be televised on Pac-12 Bay Area.

While the Aggie hoopsters are height-challenged by most Division I standards anyway, they’ll be even more so on this occasion as 6-foot-9 Josh Ritchart is likely going to watch the action again.

“It’s undetermined,” UCD coach Jim Les says of his tallest player’s return from rehab of an early-in-the-season lower-leg injury. “It’s one of those things we’re taking day by day. It’s mandatory we’re shutting him down and nobody’s giving us a timetable.”

Ritchart was injured in the first half of a 94-60 loss at Utah on Nov. 15.

The following week he scored 61 points in the three-game Portland State Invitational.

His 35 points against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville in the tournament opener was a career high and helped him earn Big West Player of the Week honors.

But the pain lingered.

Averaging 17.3 points per game, Ritchart was on the sideline — a boot on his injured right leg — during last Saturday’s 87-81 overtime loss to visiting Nevada.

“To his credit, he’s played in discomfort for a while and it got to the point where he came in and said ‘Hey, it’s getting worse. It’s not getting better,’ ” Les reports.

So now what?

The Cardinal (6-2) has a 6-10 center in Dwight Powell (15.1 ppg and seven boards a game) and a 6-6 jumping jack in Anthony Brown at one of the forwards. Brown is averaging 16.5 points and almost seven rebounds a night.

Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins has five other players 6-foot-10 or taller trying to break into his starting lineup.

UCD freshman Georgi Funtarov and junior Clint Bozner — two 6-8 forwards — will be asked to do what they can in the paint until Ritchart returns.

So what will be the Aggies’ inside strategy?

“It’ll be about positioning,” Les explains. “Make sure we’re physical with our checkouts and it’s making sure we gang-rebound.

“We’re telling our 4s and 5s that you have to put a body on someone but the guards have to come back and clean up the rebounds because they’re going to have our (inside) guys occupied. We expect everybody — not just our bigs — to be engaged in blocking out, then pursuing the basketball.”

UCD (3-7) is on a five-game losing streak, but Les thought the OT setback to the Wolfpack was a much-improved effort.

Les says the Aggies must continue to improve on defense (Stanford averages 81.8 ppg) and his team’s perimeter shooting (34 percent) could use some tightening.

“We have good shooters … and I think those shooting percentages will average out.”

Corey Hawkins has been heating up. His 34 points on Saturday were a season high.

Iggy Nujic and Ryan Sypkens — along with the emerging play of freshman guards Brynton Lemar and Darius Graham — give UCD hope in trying to tally over the trees of Stanford.

“But in the meantime we have to find other ways to win a game if we’re not shooting the ball well.

“And that’s what we’ve been harping on. If we do that, and get to where we should be shooting the ball with Corey, Syp and Iggy, then some really good things are going to happen for this team.”

Stanford beat UCD, 75-52, last December in a game that saw the Aggies hit 3-of-16 from 3-point range. In that game, J.T. Adenrele had a career-high 23 points for the locals.

The Cardinal leads the overall series 16-1. That one UCD win — a 64-58 triumph — came at The Pavilion on Dec. 4, 2005.

Notes: There is danger in the Cardinal backcourt. Junior Chasson Randle is putting up 18.5 points an outing and can be a pest on defense. … Speaking of Adenrele: the Oakmont High graduate is ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation of a knee injured in August. The 6-foot-7 forward says he “feels great” and has been attending practices, but not participating. He won’t return until next season. … Stanford’s two losses are to BYU (112-103) and 9-0-but-unranked Pittsburgh (88-67). … UCD played 10 games in 30 days to start the season and Les said it was tough to get quality practice time. However, the past two weeks have afforded some good workouts and a chance “to make adjustments.” … Because of final exams, Les has kept those practices short this week.

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at bgallaudet@davisenterprise.net or 530-320-4456.

Bruce Gallaudet

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