March 2, 2013
FULLERTON, Calif. - Led by J.T. Adenrele who recorded his fifth double-double of the season before halftime, momentum-shifting defensive plays in the final minutes by Josh Ritchart and clutch free-throw shooting by Tyler Les and Corey Hawkins, UC Davis spoiled Cal State Fullerton's Senior Night by defeating the host Titans 71-68 in Saturday's Big West Conference game.
Adenrele ended his evening with a team-high 22 points and a career-high 15 rebounds.
Saturday's win, the Aggies' fifth out of their last six played, pushes the team's record to 14-14 with a 9-7 conference mark. Fullerton falls to 14-15 and 6-10 with the loss.
"I could not be more proud of these guys for gutting one out. At the eight-minute mark it was a tied game, everyone stepped up and dug deep to make plays. To make this kind of surge towards the end of the game, this team is growing up before our eyes," said head coach Jim Les.
In addition to ending its final road game of the regular season in a positive manner, the victory also helped UC Davis set two new program highs. With nine Big West and six road wins to its credit, this year's squad is now responsible for recording the most Division I victories in each category.
The previous highs of eight conference and five road wins were held by the 2009-10 and '08-'09 teams respectively.
UC Davis will enter Thursday's nationally televised home game with 14 overall wins and an opportunity to set another program high; the '09-'10 team previously stood alone with a Division I program-high 14 victories recorded in a single season, a mark year's team also holds thanks to its triumph over the Titans.
The Aggies have two opportunities to post the most Division I wins in a season next week when they end the season at home against Long Beach State (Thursday) and UC Irvine (Saturday).
Entering the locker room at the break with 13 points and 10 rebounds, Adenrele was one of numerous players who stepped up to make key plays when it counted the most - throughout the final moments of the game.
In addition to earning his second block of the night on a three-point shot by Fullerton's Chris Collins with the game tied at 64, Ritchart also grabbed one of UC Davis' 13 offensive rebounds on a play moments later - one that eventually led to him making a free throw to give UC Davis a one-point lead with 3:35 remaining.
But it was a play made in the final seconds by the junior swingman that ultimately helped UC Davis earn a split of its season series.
With the Aggies leading by one point, and 7.1 seconds left on the clock, Ritchart took one step outside the lower left-hand block and stood tall to draw a charge against the Titans' Jared Brandon.
Not only did that heads-up play force Fullerton to commit its ninth turnover, but it also negated Brandon's layup that would have otherwise given his team the lead.
Now forced to foul, Cal State Fullerton sent T. Les and Hawkins to the line on consecutive UC Davis possessions, both calmly stepped to the stripe and drained both of their attempts.
With zero timeouts available, all Fullerton could do was heave a shot from 70-plus feet, a last-second prayer that had no shot of finding its intended target.
In addition to winning the scoreboard battle, UC Davis also dominated the paint and owned the glass all night long. In addition to outrebounding Fullerton by 17 (39-22), the Aggies also recorded 13 offensive rebounds compared to the Titans' five.
"Howley, Josh (Ritchart) and I, and even some of the guards were picking up boards. We tried to make them a jump-shooting team and knew they would miss enough shots to allow us to crash the glass," said Adenrele.
"We definitely had a size advantage tonight, we wanted to use that to our advantage," said J. Les.
UC Davis also outscored Cal State Fullerton 34-16 in the paint and finished with 13 more second chance points that its opponent.
Added Adenrele, "We knew we were a good team from the start, we just needed to build chemistry to allow us to play the type of basketball we know how to play. Right now we are doing exactly that; we are playing well on the defensive side, running the offense well and winning games."
The Aggies will compete in their first-ever nationally televised game on Thursday, March 7, against Long Beach State. ESPN2 will broadcast the action live from The Pavilion, purchase your tickets for this historic event by clicking here.
MBB at Idaho (7 p.m.)