Down three to arch-rival Cal Poly with 18 seconds left, in front of the largest home crowd of the season (2,885 fans), all the UC Davis men’s basketball team wanted was an opportunity to attempt a game-tying shot. But the Aggies never got that chance.
UCD senior Joe Harden’s pass to the wing was intercepted by the Mustangs’ Shawn Lewis, who then hurled a pass downcourt to Matt Titchenal. It was one of two turnovers by the Aggies in the final minute.
When Titchenal was fouled, and knocked down the two ensuing free throws, it put the game out of reach as Cal Poly escaped The Pavilion with a 48-43 victory.
After opening Big West play with a win at Cal State Fullerton, UCD (6-10, 1-3) suffered its third straight conference loss.
“We wanted to get multiple opportunities. At the start of the play, someone went the wrong way and it blew the whole thing,” said UCD head coach Gary Stewart.
Harden took the blame for the turnover:
“That was my fault. I was supposed to read the defense to decide if we wanted a quick two or three to tie the game.”
Harden did have 13 points and nine rebounds, while Eddie Miller scored 15 and snagged eight boards for the Aggies, but it was not enough against one of the top defensive teams in the Big West.
The Mustangs (6-8, 2-1), who entered the game allowing a conference best 60.8 points per game, was led offensively by Lewis with 11 points and Will Donahue with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
They held UCD to 31.4 percent from the field and outrebounded the Aggies, 42-36.
Cal Poly had UCD on its heels from the start when Maliik Love drained a wide-open trey, forcing the Aggies to call a timeout just 46 seconds into the game.
But the Aggies battled back behind a jumper and layup from Harden, and a long three from center Mike Kurtz.
The Mustangs regained the lead at 14-10 with 12:29 left in the half, before Ryan Sypkens daggered a 3-pointer and an intentional foul gave two free throws to UCD, putting the Aggies up 15-14. UCD’s Ryan Howley then hit another three and scored on a layup to extend the lead to 22-17.
But eventually a 3-point play by Love had the Mustangs leading, 25-24, at halftime.
After the break, layups by Harden and Miller gave the Aggies their last lead of the game at 28-25. Moments later, a tip-in by Donahue pushed the Mustangs out to an advantage they wouldn’t relinquish.
In fact, when Miller was stripped by Love with 5:44 to play, the ensuing bucket — also by Love — gave Cal Poly their largest lead at 41-34.
But the Aggies wouldn’t go away.
A putback by Miller cut it to 43-39. Then, Harden drove baseline for a kamikaze-like reverse layup while being fouled. Even though he missed the ensuing free throw, the Mustangs advantage was down to 44-41.
Miller then grabbed a rebound to give the Aggies their first potential game-tying possession. But Sypkens missed Harden on a pass that went out of bounds.
After Mustang free throws, Miller again cut the lead to one-possession at 46-43 on a floater in the lane. It was as close as UCD would come, however, as Harden’s pass was stolen on the next trip.