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UCD trio puts up big numbers

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January 5, 2011 | Leave Comment

Enterprise sports editor

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It\’s only logical that young college basketball players will set and reset their career-high scoring outputs several times during the course of the season. Heck, freshman automatically do it when they get their first collegiate hoop.

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But for the UC Davis men\’s team — specifically emerging standouts Eddie Miller, Josh Ritchart and Ryan Sypkens — big scoring outputs by players with just a few games under their belts has been the norm this season.

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First it was Miller, a junior seeing his first minutes as an Aggie this season. In a home game against Seattle on Nov. 27, the transfer from Cal made three 3-pointers and exploded for 20 points — a new career high. The 6-foot-5 sharpshooter tied that mark twice recently in wins over Southern Utah (Dec. 21) and Cal State Fullerton (Dec. 28).

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Next to join the party was Ritchart, a 6-9 true freshman, who can score inside with his height and step outside to nail 3-pointers. After getting his feet wet, scoring in single digits for the first nine games of the season, Ritchart channeled the ghosts of basketball legends in a visit to Pauley Pavilion. Nearly tripling his previous high-scoring game, he made 5-of-6 treys against UCLA on his way to a 23-point night.

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Sypkens, a sophomore out of Elk Grove\’s Franklin High, was a more established player when this season began after starting 21 games in 2009-10 and being named to the All-Big West

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freshman team. But with a year of experience to give him some confidence, he has started to put up big numbers. Another player who can stroke it from deep, Sypkens has set a new career best in each of the last two games.

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“When Ryan Sypkens gets his shoulders squared he is one of the best 3-point shooters in the conference,” UCD head coach Gary Stewart said Wednesday.

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Sypkens made four 3-pointers and scored 17 points as the Aggies won at Fullerton in their Big West opener and connected on 5-of-7 from beyond the arc to score 19 in Saturday\’s loss at Northridge.

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“What we\’ve tried to build is a team in every sense of the word,” Stewart said, referring to the weapons that have developed to go around stars Joe Harden and Mark Payne. “We don\’t really care who shoots because we\’ve got (so many) guys that can knock down shots.”

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The UCD offense was at it\’s best in the 88-72 win over the Titans, setting a season scoring high as four players were in double figures — Ritchart had 20 points and Harden added 15 to go with the efforts by Miller and Sypkens.

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Though the locals put up 81 points two days later against the Matadors, second-half turnovers made it a rough offensive showing in a tough loss that was capped off by a late-game ankle injury to Payne.

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The senior floor general was in a walking boot watching Wednesday\’s practice, and will be out for at least the next few games.

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Even with players like Sypkens, Ritchart and Miller stepping up their production, the Aggies will be challenged to keep up with the UC Santa Barbara squad that will be at The Pavilion for a 7 p.m. contest tonight. The Gauchos (7-5, 0-1), who defeated UCD three times last year including ending its season in the Big West tournament semifinals, feature the top two scorers in the conference in James Nunnally (19.0 points per game) and Orlando Johnson (17.8 ppg).

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“Both guys are matchup nightmares,” Stewart said. “With Nunnally, you can\’t touch him because he is a 90-percent free-throw shooter. He takes quality shots, is a good 3-point shooter and is big enough [6-7] to shoot over the top of you and go inside.

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“Johnson is also good from the 3-point arc and is able to pretty much get to any spot he want to on the floor.”

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Notes: UCSB is guided by former Aggie head coach Bob Williams. Coaching at UCD from 1990-98, Williams went 158-76, posted 20 or more wins five times, and led the Aggies to the 1998 Division II National Championship. … Last season, the Gauchos won the Big West to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in Williams\’ tenure. UCSB was seeded 12th and lost to fifth-seeded Ohio State in the first round. … After the matchup with the Gauchos, UCD will host Cal Poly (4-8, 0-1) on Saturday. The Mustangs are a defensive-oriented squad that is first in the Big West in opponent\’s 3-point shooting and second in steals. Junior David Hansen (16.2 ppg) and senior Shawn Lewis (13.7) lead Cal Poly on offense.

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— Reach Chris Saur at csaur@davisenterprise.net or (530) 747-8049. Comment on this story at www.davisenterprise.com

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