Jan. 30, 2014
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - Back-to-back threes from Ryan Sypkens gave UC Davis a two-point lead with 1:48 remaining in Thursday's Big West Conference game from the Mott Athletics Center in San Luis Obispo, Calif., another three on the Aggies' following possession by Corey Hawkins extended their advantage to five-a lead the team held until the final buzzer to defeat Cal Poly 62-58.
Led by Hawkins who finished with a team-high 16 points, UC Davis improves to 7-14 overall and 2-4 in league play. With the loss, Cal Poly's second straight, the Mustangs fall to 8-12 and 4-3.
"Our guys battled and they made big plays on both ends of the floor," said head coach Jim Les after the game. "The guys have played well on defense throughout the last two weeks at practice, we just needed that effort to show up on game day to earn a positive result."
Entering the final minute of the game, with UC Davis ahead by five, the Mustangs scored on consecutive possessions to pull within one with 38 seconds still on the clock. From that point on, the Aggies stepped up on defense, drained 3 of 4 free throws-Cal Poly was forced to foul in an effort to preserve as much time as possible-and prevented the Mustangs from scoring another point to capture a victory.
"Corey and Ryan made some big threes, and we hit our free throws late; our comeback started and ended on defense. We made key stops on one end, made that extra pass on offense and forced Cal Poly's zone to work hard on the other end."
Also aiding the Aggies' comeback effort was the play of Avery Johnson as he recorded all 11 of his points throughout the second half.
"Avery made an impact on tonight's game with the way he played defense. When we needed them the most, he was able to collect huge rebounds," said Les.
The come-from-behind victory, UC Davis trailed by seven at the break, is the team's first in San Luis Obispo since Feb. 18, 2009, and the first road win of the season.
Entering its Jan. 28 home matchup against Long Beach State, Cal Poly won 16 straight games on its home floor against Big West opposition; with their victory, the Aggies handed the Mustangs their second consecutive home loss against a conference foe.
With Cal Poly focusing its effort on defense on Hawkins and Sypkens throughout the first 20 minutes of action, Georgi Funtarov, the team's tertiary scoring threat of the opening half, kept UC Davis within striking distance until halftime.
In a half that saw UC Davis allow only 28 points, Funtarov was responsible for 10 of his team's 21 points. Throughout his 14 minutes on the court, the freshman forward was 4 of 9, sank two shots from three and led all players with six rebounds.
Funtarov's final points of the first half helped UC Davis enter the locker room on a positive note as his jumper chipped a couple of points off Cal Poly's game-high nine-point lead.
What took Cal Poly the entire first half to build, UC Davis erased with 10:10 left in the game due to a 7-0 scoring run that gave the Aggies their first lead of the second half. During that stretch, Johnson scored five of his team's seven unanswered points.
In addition to that three-minute block of time that saw the Aggies hold Cal Poly scoreless, UC Davis' defense also prevented the Mustangs from scoring for two-and-a-half minutes later in the half.
In front of a raucous crowd of 2,242, nine lead changes and two tied scores took place before the duo of Hawkins and Sypkens silenced everyone thanks to their three-point heroics.
"Corey and Ryan are our veterans; they have been in numerous late-game situations and we feel comfortable with the ball in their hands," said Les.
Of the final 14 points scored by the Aggies, UC Davis' dynamic duo collectively scored 13.
Responsible for that other point was Iggy Nujic-his free throw with six seconds left increased his team's lead to a two-possession margin.
UC Davis will continue its Central California road trip Saturday afternoon, and seek a weekend sweep, in its 4 p.m. league matchup at UC Santa Barbara.