YOLO COUNTY NEWS

Aggies

UCD men slug Santa Cruz

By November 17, 2010

Enterprise staff writer

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They\’re out of the rut.

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After dropping three straight weekend games — in similar fall-behind-early style — during

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Portland\’s Athletes in Action Classic, the UC Davis men\’s basketball team came out with a purpose on Wednesday at The Pavilion.

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Sure it was against Division III Santa Cruz, a team the locals have now beaten 15 of 16 times. But it was win and, especially in the first half, the 70-49 victory met all of Aggie coach Gary Stewart\’s keys to future success.

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“Regardless of the opponent, you have to value the ball, contest shots and force turnovers,” Stewart explained. “We did that.”

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Leading 32-11 at intermission, UCD shot 51.9 percent (14-for-27) from the field, outrebounded the Banana Slugs, 23-13, and, for one stretch of eight minutes, had no turnovers.

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Balanced Aggie scoring saw Joe Harden leading the way with eight at intermission (he finished with 16 and 11 rebounds). UCD played stifling defense, holding Santa Cruz to only 5-of-28 shooting, and keeping their visitors scoreless for the final 5:52 of the period.

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“It was a much better start. It was something we talked about … something we worked on in practice,” Stewart, the eight-year UCD coach, continued, adding his team\’s concentration and focus in the first half was what his charges promised during the past two practices. “That 17.9 percent (UCSC field goal percentage) is the most pleasing number.”

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Stewart said the team did the things they talked about:

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“Transition, (hitting) the boards, working the periphery, it was all there in the first half.”

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In the last 20 minutes, the Slugs played the Ags even, and although a D-III school went toe-to-toe with his squad for a while, Stewart wasn\’t concerned:

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“Now we\’re searching for combinations. With some guys (like Harden and Mark Payne) you know what you\’re going to get. The rest are going to take some time to integrate

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into the system. There is no time frame.”

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One of the players finding his way in the rotation is Flagstaff, Ariz. sophomore Ryan Howley.

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Howley, who started 10 games last year (averaging four points a game) has missed only two shots in four games and — while averaging only 15 minutes a contest — is canning seven points a night. He had 10 points in only 15 minutes on Wednesday. The 6-foot-5 guard also grabbed two boards.

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Getting more playing time, if you\’re an Aggie, revolves around two things:

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“Playing good defense and rebounding,” Howley says. “Just the fact that we got this win is a good thing. We had a really good practice (Tuesday) and if we get on runs and (get) transition shots like the first half (on Wednesday), we\’ll be OK.”

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On Wednesday, the Aggies were fine.

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The scoring started when UCD guard Todd Lowenthal found a wide-open Harden alone underneath less than a minute into the game. With both teams playing ragged offense, it wasn\’t until 16:01 that the Aggies made it 4-0, thanks to a Payne basket. Seconds later, Payne started an around-the-horn venture with Alex Tiffin passing to Eddie Miller for a 6-0 bulge.

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Not until 5:34 had elapsed did Santa Cruz — thanks to Ryan Matsuoka\’s jumper — get points.

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Thirty-five seconds before halftime, fans saw (and appreciated) a glimpse of the future when freshmen Illinois native Tyler Les and Mike Kurtz teamed up. First, Les took the ball from Banana Slug Sam Allen, then he found the ex-Woodcreek High seven-footer streaking to the basket. Kurtz took the outlet pass and had no problem bringing the crowd to its feet with a two-handed slam.

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Play like that has a confident Stewart knowing the right combination is near.

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Notes: Harden is sneaking up on 1,000 career points, just a few days after teammate Payne went past the milestone. Add senior Payne\’s 13 from Wednesday and he now stands at 1,021. Harden\’s 16 puts him at 963. … UCD (1-3) next plays Boise State at 1 p.m. Sunday at The Pavilion. Santa Cruz (0-2) was led by guard Matsuoka with 12 and Tyler Hunt with 11.

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