DAVIS, Calif. - Entering its first week of league road games, UC Davis continues to prove why its defense is the best among all Big West teams, and among the elite programs at the Division I level. In addition to holding this highest RPI among all conference teams (for another week), the Aggies also lead the league in four defensive categories.
With their opponents averaging 65.0 points per game this season, the Aggies are ranked No. 35 in the nation in scoring defense -- an average that is nearly five points fewer than the BWC's next ranked team. As the league's representative at last year's NCAA Tournament, players representing the sixth-ranked public school in the country know they are the hunted since every opponent will elevate their game to prove itself against the defending conference champs. And as has been the case in recent years, it is the Aggies' defense that lifted the team to victory throughout the season.
Including its attention-grabbing victory at Washington State last December -- the Cougars entered their home game against the Aggies with an undefeated record, and a Wooden Classic Tournament championship in its possession thanks to wins earned against Saint Mary's and San Diego State the previous week -- UC Davis held opponents to less than 70 points in all 10 of its victories.
Thursday's ESPN3 game will feature two teams that are successful in preventing other teams to score from three: UC Riverside is ranked second (.315), trailing a UC Davis team that is limiting opponents to a .303 shooting clip from distance. (However, the teams are not ranked as close to one another when shooting from three since the Aggies are No. 2 in the league by shooting .377, compared to the Highlanders who are ranked last with its .305 pct.).
No team averages more steals per game (8.1), than the Aggies, a key reason why there is a sizable gap between their +2.1 turnover per game margin and Cal Poly, the next ranked team with its +0.6 differential.
Watch UC Davis on ESPN3, or on the WatchESPN app this week when the network broadcasts both Aggie games for a national audience. Tipoff at UC Riverside Thursday night is set for 7 p.m.; UC Davis' Saturday night game at Cal State Fullerton will begin at 6 p.m.
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Providing a small-town community feel while providing a world-class academic experience, UC Davis is home to more than 37,000 students and centrally located between San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and the Napa Valley.
The No. 6-ranked public university in the nation, according to the Wall Street Journal, offers nearly 100 graduate programs and more than 100 academic majors across four colleges and six professional schools, ranking among the world and nation's best in numerous disciplines, including veterinary science, agriculture, and plant and animal programs.
Both are clichés, but UC Davis proved that each are true thanks to a pair of championships earned in the last three seasons: defense wins championships, and defense travels. With every Big West team anxious to prove itself against UC Davis, its defense will play a vital role in this season's battle for another Big West title.