Nov. 18, 2012
DAVIS, Calif. - A furious second-half charge by UC Davis nearly erased a double-digit deficit as the Aggies dropped their home opener 85-82 to Northern Arizona at The Pavilion Sunday afternoon.
Corey Hawkins connected on half of his 20 shots, and made all but one of his nine free throws to lead all players with 30 points. In only his second game as an Aggie, the sophomore guard became the first player since Eddie Miller posted 35 points at UC Riverside (Feb. 26, 2011) to score 30 or more in a game.
Behind his 9-for-13 shooting effort, including seven baskets from distance, guard Ryan Sypkens finished with 25 points to set a new career-high. His performance against the Lumberjacks was a three-point improvement over his previous best recorded inside The Pavilion against Cal State Fullerton last March.
Guard Ryan Howley fell one rebound shy of earning his second double-double in as many games and scored all 10 of his points in the second half.
Howley also led UC Davis (0-2) with nine rebounds, guard Paolo Mancasola finished with a team-high seven assists.
Trailing by as many as 15 points in the first half, the Aggies were able to trim six points off the Lumberjacks' lead and entered the locker room at the half down 51-42.
A 13-5 UC Davis scoring run midway through the second half brought the Aggies within one at 74-73 before Northern Arizona (1-2) responded by scoring seven unanswered points of its own to extended its lead to 81-73 with 3:11 remaining.
It was then when Josh Ritchart re-entered the game and helped fuel his team's final scoring push as the junior swingman forced two turnovers, and grabbed two defensive rebounds on four consecutive Lumberjack possessions to prevent NAU from scoring another point until there were 27 seconds left in the game.
Hawkins and Sypkens were able to take full advantage of their teammate's defensive prowess as the duo combined to score the Aggies' next seven points to trim their deficit to a single point.
Forced to foul the Lumberjacks to stop the clock, NAU's Gabe Rogers made both of his free throws to return the lead back to three only to see Hawkins score his final two points at the free throw line shortly thereafter to bring the Aggies within one once again.
The Lumberjacks' initial three-point cushion returned when Dewayne Russell made his two shots at the stripe after being fouled by Graham. Even though UC Davis trailed 85-82, the Aggies still had enough time on the clock to design a set play in an attempt to score the game-tying basket.
With four seconds left, the Aggies inbounded the ball to Hawkins who quickly raced down the near sideline into the Aggies' half of the floor. When two Lumberjack defenders raced towards him, Hawkins recognized that Ritchart had a step on his defender on the opposite side of the court and swung the ball in his direction
Hoping to push the game into overtime, Ritchart released his three-point shot mere moments before the buzzer sounded. Unfortunately for UC Davis, the bounce that Ritchart's shot took on the rim did not fall in its favor.
Gabe Rogers and Dewayne Russell led Northern Arizona with 27 and 25 points respectively, Gaellan Bewernick and Ephraim Ekanem finished with a team-high seven rebounds.
Sunday's game was a return contest from last season's ESPN Bracketbusters matchup in Flagstaff, Ariz., a game that UC Davis won by five.
The Aggies have a short turnaround before returning to action on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at Sacramento State. Tipoff for this year's Causeway Classic is scheduled for 7:35 p.m.
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