Nov. 22, 2013
PORTLAND - Led by Josh Ritchart who scored a career-high 35 points Friday afternoon at the Peter W. Stott Center in Portland, Ore., the Aggies erased a 13-point deficit, built an 11-point lead of their own and captured an 80-75 victory over SIUE in the team's inaugural game at the Portland State Tournament.
The Aggies will enter Saturday's contest against Loyola Chicago with a 2-2 record, SIUE slips to 1-3 with the loss.
In addition to setting a new career high in scoring after shooting 12 of 14 against the Cougars, Ritchart also tied a personal best with a game-high 13 rebounds to post UC Davis' inaugural double-double of the season.
"Even though I missed my first jump-hook, I felt great throughout the rest of the game. I just took what the defense gave me, all credit goes to my teammates because I could not have played the way I did tonight without them," said Ritchart.
By finishing with 35 points, Ritchart became the first UC Davis player to score 30 or more points in a game since Corey Hawkins earned 34 against Long Beach State in the Aggies' appearance on ESPN2 last March.
"I'm on our guys all the time about playing games the way you practice; Josh has been our best practice player, he brings it every day," said head coach Jim Les following the game.
SIUE started Friday's game strong by building a first-half lead that swelled to as many as 13 points midway through the opening half. However, by scoring 11 of the game's 12 points throughout the final 2:05 of the first half, UC Davis took what was once a double-digit deficit and trimmed it to only two.
Capping that late-half scoring run was a three-point shot that Ritchart drained from the opposite side of the court, one of three baskets from distance made by the senior forward in as many attempts (video courtesy of Randy Harmon, HarmsHoops).
"Making a shot three-quarters away from the basket is one way to figure out that you are having a great night," said Ritchart. "That was a big basket; instead of heading into halftime down five, we only trailed by two and were able to create additional momentum."
By generating two 5-0 scoring runs shortly after play resumed, and scoring another seven unanswered as the half progressed, UC Davis completed its 24-point swing when the team held its game-high 11-point advantage with 9:25 remaining.
Able to force the Cougars to commit 16 turnovers, the Aggies made the most of their extra possessions by scoring 23 points off SIUE miscues.
Ritchart was not the only Aggie responsible for UC Davis' turnaround as Hawkins, redshirt freshman guard Darius Graham, junior forwards Avery Johnson and Iggy Nujic also made the most of their time on the court.
Held to only two points before the break, Hawkins chipped in another seven throughout the second half to help the Aggies create a lead that lasted until the final buzzer.
Graham, responsible for a game-high seven of his team's 14 assists, and Nujic, who chipped in seven points off the bench, frustrated the Cougars on defense by standing tall and drawing charges throughout Friday's tournament-opener.
"I liked our energy on defense, I liked how we helped each other out-we took four charges-and played well defensively. To win after being down 13 is a great way to build confidence heading into our next two games," said Les.
UC Davis will continue tournament action against Loyola Chicago Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m., links for a free video stream and internet audio broadcast are available at ucdavisaggies.com. As is the case with all UC Davis men's basketball games this season, fans can also listen to Saturday's action on KSAC 105.5 FM.