SANTA BARBARA — UC Davis sophomore J.T. Adenrele opened Thursday’s Big West Conference game at The Thunderdome with a vicious dunk, and the Aggie men’s basketball team never trailed again.
When the clock ran out, UCD was on top 64-56 to get its first win over the Gauchos since 2009, and first victory in Santa Barbara since 2007.
Sophomore guard Corey Hawkins led all scorers with 20 points and finished with a team-high nine rebounds for the Aggies (9-12, 5-5), pacing three UCD players in double digits. Junior guard Ryan Sypkens added 15, including three treys from well beyond the arc, while Adenrele chipped in another 10.
The Aggies led by as many as 16 points in the first half and possessed a double-digit lead throughout most of the game.
On the occasions when the Gauchos (7-15, 3-8) tried to rally, the Aggies stepped up on defense, forced turnovers or made key shots to keep UCSB at a comfortable distance.
The Aggies used multiple defenders to frustrate Alan Williams, the Gauchos’ leading scorer, including junior center Spencer Clayton. Even freshman guard Olivier-Paul Betu got into the act, taking a charge from the Big West’s No. 4 scorer. UCD forced 13 turnovers overall and limited Williams to 15 points on just five made field goals.
“Olivier is a tough guy who leads our team in charges during practice,” said Aggie head coach Jim Les. “He may not be one of our biggest guys, but he is one of the toughest because he is always willing to lay his body on the line. That charge energized our team.”
The UCD defense held the Gauchos to seven field goals on 27 attempts in the first half and UCSB finished the night at 34.9 percent.
“UC Santa Barbara shoots the ball well, but I thought they missed a lot of shots because of our defense and our physicality,” Les said. “We (the coaches) are really pleased with our defensive effort (Thursday).”
Were it not for a late-game flurry of activity from the Gauchos, the Aggies would have set a new season-low for opponent field goal percentage.
UCD, meanwhile, finished its night shooting 23-for-47 (48.9 pct.) from the floor, 7-for-16 (43.8 pct.) from 3-point range and 11-for-18 at the line.
The Aggies will end their Central California road trip at Cal Poly on Saturday at 7 p.m.