There’s nothing quite like a rivalry game to get the blood pumping.
Especially when that game is the Causeway Classic.
After looking sluggish in a loss to Northern Arizona in its home opener on Sunday, the UC Davis men’s basketball team got back on track with an 87-76 win at Sacramento State on Tuesday night.
The Aggies reasserted themselves on the defensive end of the floor, outrebounded the Hornets 45-31, held Sac State to 35.8 percent shooting and scored 63 points in the second half to get the victory — their first of the season.
“I thought it was great,” said UCD head coach Jim Les. “I thought this was an old backyard brawl. The intensity in the building was awesome and this is a great rivalry for Sacramento and for us. And it’s a big win for this young team. We’ve got a lot of young guys, it’s their first year playing together, so this is really something we can build on.”
The defensive effort proved critical as the Aggies (1-2) struggled offensively in the early going, turning the ball over 12 times and connecting on only 35.7 of their field goal attempts in the first half.
But with players like Ryan Howley, who grabbed seven rebounds in the first 20 minutes and 15 on the night, and J.T. Adrenele, who blocked a pair of shots, preventing the Hornets from doing much on offense, UCD was able to keep the deficit to 33-24 at halftime.
And in the second half, the Aggies surged. Corey Hawkins scored 26 of his 29 points in the period, and Ryan Sypkens added a quartet of 3-pointers.
“We have a team that can put points on the board and do it quickly,” Les said. “When we get hot, we can put up points and we can put up 63 in a half. That’s a lot of points in a hurry and that’s coming off our defense.”
UCD opened the half on a 26-5 run.
Adrenele, who had a career-high 19 points against the Hornets, muscled his way inside for three hard-fought lay-ups and Paolo Mancasola added another bucket in the paint, before sixth man Tyler Les — the coach’s son — hit twice from deep.
After Hawkins slashed his way to the rim to convert a tricky reverse lay-up, and added a trey of his own, the Aggies led 50-38 with about 10 minutes to go.
From there, Hawkins hit eight free throws and made a ridiculous shot, flinging the ball over his shoulders and into the basket as he fell along the baseline, to keep the Hornets at bay.
In the first half, the Aggies led several times and got a pair of two-handed jams from Adenrele, but allowed the Hornets to go on a run just before intermission.
Dylan Garrity had 22 points for the Hornets and John Dickson added 18.
For UCD, Sypkens had 15 points and Les chipped in nine. Hawkins added seven rebounds and five assists to his 29-point outburst.
The win, which came in front of a raucous crowd of nearly 1,300 — mostly cheering for the Hornets — puts the locals in better position heading into a tough stretch. The Aggies will play four of their next five games on the road, including at Nevada and at Stanford.
— Reach Will Bellamy at [email protected]