GAME NOTES: A pair of teams trying to reverse their recent misfortunes will square off on Saturday, as the UC Davis Aggies tangle with the Long Beach State 49ers in a Big West Conference bout at The Pyramid.
UC Davis was matched up with Cal State Northridge in its league opener on Thursday, but fell short on the road in an 89-77 final. The loss was the second in the last three games for the Aggies, who are just 5-11 overall and winless in seven tries in true road games. The good news is a three-game homestand is next on the schedule.
For Long Beach State, the conference opener also ended in disappointment. The 49ers nearly rallied, but didn't have enough offensive firepower in what wound up as a 46-44 home loss to UC Irvine on Thursday. The defeat was the second straight for the team. LBSU will take to the road to face UC Santa Barbara next.
This conference rivalry has never provided much in terms of parity. The 49ers have won 18 of 20 previous meetings, including a season sweep a year ago.
Corey Hawkins finished with 25 points to lead five players in double figures for UC Davis on Thursday, but it simply wasn't enough. The Aggies let themselves down by allowing Cal State Northridge to net 62 percent of its field goal attempts on the night.
Some of the struggles for the Aggies can be blamed on injury issues, particularly the sprained ankle suffered by Josh Ritchart (17.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg), which has kept the 6-foot-9 forward out for the last seven games. Hawkins (17.7 ppg) has had to carry the scoring load nearly alone, although he has done a solid job of it and ranks second in the Big West in scoring. Ryan Sypkens (11.4 ppg) is the only other player on the roster averaging in double figures. However, he hit just 4-of-12 shots to finish with 11 points on Thursday.
Long Beach State trailed by as many as 12 points in the second half against UC Irvine, but slashed the deficit to just a single point in the last three minutes by going on a 10-0 run. However, Mike Caffey missed a shot that would have pushed the 49ers ahead with 15 seconds remaining, thus allowing the Anteaters to escape with the win.
Caffey (15.9 ppg, 4.1 apg) had a miserable showing against UC Irvine, scoring just two points, while being shut out from the floor (0-of-8). Tyler Lamb (18.8 ppg), who has scored well in limited opportunities (five games), finished with 11 points in the losing effort. Lamb had scored at least 17 points in his previous four contests. Dan Jennings (10.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg) was listed as questionable for the UC Irvine game due to a concussion and those symptoms may have affected him as he tallied just three points in the loss. Having their main scorers struggle is not something the 49ers can afford, as they are last in the league in both scoring (65.2 ppg) and field goal percentage (.391).
If the 49ers are back to full strength and Caffey bounces back, they have some solid scoring options which should allow them to get past the Aggies.
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