PORTLAND - Of the five three-point field goals Ryan Sypkens recorded Saturday afternoon in UC Davis' second game at the Portland State Tournament, it was his last two that forced overtime, and stood as the game-winning shot respectively, as the Aggies left the Peter W. Stott Center in Portland, Ore., with a 64-61 overtime win against Loyola Chicago.
The win pushes UC Davis over .500 for the first time this season; the Aggies will enter their Sunday afternoon contest against host Portland State Sunday afternoon with a 3-2 record, Loyola Chicago will enter its tournament finale with a 2-4 mark.
"I thought this was our best defensive effort of the year," said UC Davis head coach Jim Les following the game. "Even though we struggled at times offensively, we played great the entire game on defense and came up with some crucial stops."
Saturday's result against the Ramblers also marked the first UC Davis overtime victory since Jan. 29, 2011, when the Aggies earned a 108-107 home victory over UC Irvine.
Down by three with 15 seconds remaining in regulation, the Aggies missed their initial game-tying opportunity. When Loyola's London Dokubo grabbed what he though was the game-clinching rebound with four seconds still on the clock, he had no idea that Darius Graham was nearby and prepared to change the fortunes of both teams in an instant.
Once Graham scooped up a loose ball after Rambler Christian Thomas fumbled Dokubo's pass, he found Sypkens looming behind the arc and quickly passed the ball in his direction.
Wide open, with an unobstructed look, Sypkens drained a straightaway three with 1.2 seconds left in the game to tie the score at 52 and force additional action.
"I knew the shot was good the moment it left my hands," said Sypkens referring to his game-tying shot (Video courtesy of Randy Harmon (HarmsHoop).
Competing in its first overtime game of the year, UC Davis scored the first basket to take an early lead, one that initiated a back-and-forth battle that lasted the entire period. Throughout the final four minutes, two tied scores and four lead changes took place; it was Sypkens who was responsible for the final lead change when he nailed another three, this time from the far corner, to turn a one-point Loyola lead into a two-point Aggie advantage.
"Even though they were denying me all game long, I wanted to make the most of my opportunities when they were available," said Sypkens. "Coach drew up a play for me, there was no doubt that shot was going in once I let it fly."
After Loyola's Milton Doyle cut the Aggies' two-point lead in half by making the first of two free throws, it was the Ramblers' turn to make the most of their final possession with 19 seconds remaining.
Unlike the Aggies who stepped up with a clutch play when it counted the most, Loyola never created a game-winning opportunity as it was Sypkens who recorded his team's sixth, and final steal on that play-a Rambler turnover that lead to an uncontested layup by Corey Hawkins on the other end that pushed the score to its eventual result.
"As a fifth-year senior, (Sypkens) really showed his toughness tonight and made plays when the team needed it the most," said Les.
Even though Sypkens was 5 of 6 from three, and Hawkins finished with a game-high 17 points, the entire UC Davis lineup contributed the overall result of Saturday's contest.
Throughout the afternoon, Clint Bozner more than held his own against the Ramblers' post players to finish with seven points and two rebounds.
Coming off his career-high effort the previous day against SIUE, Josh Ritchart nearly earned his second-straight double-double by finishing with nine points and nine rebounds.
Responsible for forcing one of Loyola's 14 turnovers with his late-game swipe that lead to Sypkens' game-tying bucket, Graham led all players with eight assists to set a new career-high.
Including Iggy Nujic, who scored a career-high eight points off the bench, all eight Aggies who saw action forced the Ramblers to shoot 35.7 pct. from the floor (20-for-56). By comparison, UC Davis shot 46 pct. (23-for-50) against Loyola.
Even though the Ramblers outrebounded the Aggies by one, it was UC Davis that dominated the defensive glass from the opening tip, to the final buzzer, and finished with a +5 rebounding advantage.
Added Sypkens: "We're playing defense at a level that we desire. It was our effort on defense that created the opportunities for the team to tie, and win the game."
UC Davis will end its weekend in Oregon against tournament host Portland State in Sunday's 3 p.m. showdown. Links for a free video stream and internet audio broadcast are available at ucdavisaggies.com, fans can also listen to Bill Herenda call the action courtside on KSAC (105.5 FM).