Feb. 27, 2014
DAVIS, Calif. – Avery Johnson scored a career-high 18 points, Georgi Funtarov had his first double-double, and UC Davis tied a season-high with 13 three-pointers as the Aggie men's basketball team posted a key 85-73 Big West Conference win over Cal Poly at The Pavilion on Thursday night.
Funtarov earned his double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds to help his team earn its wire-to-wire win. By downing Cal Poly, UC Davis picked up its first sweep over the Mustangs since the 2005-06 season.
UC Davis, fighting for one of eight berths in the upcoming Big West Tournament, improved to 9-19 overall and 4-9 in the conference, a full game over idle UC Riverside (3-10) with three games remaining. Brynton Lemar and Ryan Sypkens each added 14 points while Corey Hawkins had 10.
“We just fed off each other tonight, made that extra pass and waited for a good look all night long,” said Johnson regarding his team’s balanced scoring.
“I was a little worried about tonight’s game being a ‘trap game’ with everyone looking forward to the ESPN2 game, or becoming caught up in the enthusiasm and buzz about Saturday,” said head coach Jim Les. “It could have been easy to overlook this game, but they took care of business.
“I loved their energy, especially on the defensive end. We made an early run and put Cal Poly back on their heels.”
Thursday’s game marked the fourth time this season where five or more Aggies scored double figures. UC Davis accomplished this feat in its season opener, at Portland (11/8), in triple overtime at San Jose State (12/18) and in overtime, at home, against Cal State Northridge (2/6).
Chris Eversley led the Mustangs with 17 points while Malik Love had 10. With Thursday’s result, Cal Poly drops to 10-17 overall and 6-8 in the Big West.
“The team has a ‘one game at a time mentality,’ because we know there are only two weeks left in the season,” said Johnson in a postgame radio interview. “We earned the win, now it’s time to look forward to Saturday’s game.”
The Aggies led 10-9 early in the game but used a 14-4 run to take a 24-13 advantage with 7:50 left in the first half. UC Davis went up by as many as 16 points before going into halftime with a 37-25 lead.
Cal Poly cut the lead to 40-34 three minutes into the second half but the Aggies used a 14-3 surge–capped by Johnson's fast-break layup–to break open a nine-point lead for a 63-43 lead midway through the half.
The lead remained double-digits until the final minute before UC Davis eventually won by a dozen points.
The Aggies had 13 three-pointers three other times this season, most recently against Cal State Northridge on Feb. 6. They finished 13 of 24 (54.2 percent) overall.
UC Davis’ three-point field goal total also doubles as the most allowed by a Cal Poly opponent in its last 144 games.
Johnson's previous career-high for scoring was 16 points against UC Riverside on Jan. 16. Funtarov's double-double was UC Davis' second of the year, joining a 35 point, 13-rebound effort by Josh Ritchart against SIU-Edwardsville on Nov. 22.
“The difference for us, in wins and losses, is our ability to make stops on defense and limit the number of second-chance shots earned by our opponents. I thought we did that tonight,” said Les.
Funtarov’s performance took on a special meaning as the first-year’s parents were in attendance Thursday night after making the trip from Bulgaria to Davis.
“You never know how a player will react in a situation like this, he definitely stepped up for us tonight.
“I thought (Funtarov) did a great job on defense against Eversley and made him work hard to earn his points. For a freshman to take on a fifth-year senior, who is one of the best players in this league, and perform like he did throughout the entire game says a lot about Georgi,” added Les.
The Aggies will be back in action on Saturday, facing UC Santa Barbara at 5 p.m. at The Pavilion. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN2, the second straight year they've appeared on the network on Hamilton Court.