GAME NOTES: A couple of teams at different ends of the Big West Conference spectrum get together this evening, as the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos meet up with the UC Davis Aggies.
Two nights ago, the Gauchos took part in a battle for first place in the Big West versus UC Irvine and unfortunately came up short in a 71-60 final on the road, snapping a two-game win streak in the process.
While UCSB is still within striking distance of the Anteaters for the top spot in the conference standings with just a week remaining before the end of the regular season, the same cannot be said for the Aggies. In fact, UC Davis is dangerously close to being at the bottom of the league with just four wins in 13 opportunities. Were it not for an 85-73 win over Cal Poly two nights ago, the team would be tied with UC Riverside for last in the Big West.
UCSB won the first meeting of the season at the start of last month, 82-67, at home, which means the all-time series now numbers 23-6 in favor of the Gauchos.
Against UC Irvine a few nights back, the biggest difference between the Anteaters and Gauchos took place at the free-throw line where UCSB was outscored by a massive 24-6 margin in the 11-point road loss. Alan Williams, who converted only 5-of-9 at the charity stripe, finished with 15 points, followed by Kyle Boswell and Michael Bryson with 14 and 11 points, respectively,
Even though he was off his game on Thursday, Williams continues to be one of the most dominant performers out west with his 22.2 ppg and 11.7 rpg, making him one of only a handful of players in the nation averaging a double-double this late into the season. Bryson (10.8 ppg) and Boswell (10.5 ppg) step up with some offensive support, but the defense has done most of the hard work this season by limiting foes to only 65.6 ppg.
The Aggies knocked down an impressive 22-of-28 at the free-throw line in the second half of the meeting with Cal Poly a few nights back, but the bigger story for UC Davis was a 13-of-24 showing behind the 3-point line, compared to just 5-of-17 for the visitors from long range. Georgi Funtarov registered a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Avery Johnson led all scorers with 18 points. Pitching in with 14 points apiece were Brynton Lemar and Ryan Sypkens, while Corey Hawkins responded with 10 points and seven assists.
More often than not, Hawkins has been the leading scorer in games for the Aggies and as such paces the program overall with his 18.6 ppg, thanks in large part to his 139-of-181 (.768) at the free-throw line. Hawkins, also responsible for 4.5 rpg and a team-best 41 steals, leads the group with 82 assists as well, making him one of the more well-rounded performers in the conference. The only other active double-digit contributor on offense is Sypkens with 11.7 ppg as a part-time starter.
As long as the Gauchos have Williams patrolling the paint at both ends of the floor, a team like UC Davis will have a hard time keeping up and potentially taking down UCSB no matter where the teams meet,
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