Feb. 8, 2014
DAVIS, Calif. - Corey Hawkins scored 19 points for UC Davis while Brynton Lemar added 11 but visiting UC Irvine thwarted the Aggies' final shot attempt to hold on for a 61-59 Big West Conference men's basketball win at The Pavilion on Saturday night.
The Aggies, who split their two home games this week, are 8-16 overall and 3-6 in the Big West. Chris McNealy and Dominique Dunning each had 11 points for the Anteaters who took over sole possession of first place in the conference with the win. UC Irvine is 16-9 overall and 7-2 in the Big West.
UC Davis led by as many as 11 points in each half before the Anteaters gradually chipped away to tie the game, 51-51, with 8:10 remaining in the second half. There were three more ties before the Aggies enjoyed their final lead, 59-57, with just under three minutes to play. UC Irvine scored the next four points, including their final point on a free throw from 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye with 1:10 to go.
When Irvine's Alex Young misfired on a pass threw the ball out of bounds, it was the Aggies who were able to run the final play of the game with 30 seconds to go. Darius Graham tried a three-pointer from in front of the UC Davis bench with three seconds to go but it bounced off the rim and Dominique Dunning grabbed the rebound for UC Irvine.
The game was close through much of the first half before 7-0 surge by the Aggies-which included a three-pointer from Avery Johnson-turned a 22-18 lead into a 29-18 advantage with 6:14 before halftime. UC Davis led 30-26 at intermission after UC Irvine scored the final six points of the half.
The Aggies took another 11-point lead in the second half after Hawkins' jumper made it 42-31 four minutes in. The Anteaters got to within 49-47 before eventually tying the game on Dominique Dunning's layup with just over eight minutes remaining.
UC Davis did a phenomenal job protecting the ball, turning it over a season-low seven times. They twice had nine in a game entering Saturday's contest. Conversely, UC Irvine struggled against an Aggie defense that forced 16 Anteater errors, which led to 16 UC Davis points.
"Our team is getting better, they are battling and giving themselves a chance to win every night," said UC Davis head coach Jim Les. "That's a great credit to them; after dealing with so much adversity (throughout the season), they are ready to face any challenge, every night.
"I think our defense is remarkably better, the players are doing everything that we, as a staff, are asking them to do. The mindset of our guys going into games, and throughout the games, has been really positive. That's a great sign that they are improving and peaking at the right time."
Hawkins hit 5 of 11 shots and was 8 of 11 from the field. Lemar added three assists to his 11 points while Clint Bozner came off the bench to add nine. Ndiaye, who had 11 blocks in UC Irvine's win over Long Beach State on Thursday, had just one against the Aggies. He scored 10 points as did Aaron Wright.
"(Justin Dueck and Bozner) did a great job down low tonight against Ndiaye. He is obviously tough to guard and is a great rim protector. Offensively, when he sets up deep in the paint, he is a force; I thought the two played well and battled him throughout the night," said Les.
The Aggies will play just one game next week, traveling to face Cal State Fullerton at 7 p.m. on Thursday.