History was made for the little college town of Davis, California on Tuesday night.
For the first time in UC Davis history, the Aggies were participating in a Divison I postseason tournament. By virtue of winning the regular season Big West title (but not the tournament title), the navy-and-white were set to play in the NIT. And – surprise, surprise – they were set to face off against a familiar foe: The Stanford Cardinal.
Once upon a time, the Aggies shook the basketball world by defeating the Cardinal in December of 2005 – a victory that stood in between wins for the UC Davis football team (September 2005) and baseball team (May 2006) over Stanford, in an unlikely college sports trifecta that has gone down in Aggies Sports lore.
Could they repeat the basketball feat of more than nine years ago? Here were my thoughts (in real-time) of the NIT First Round game between UC Davis and Stanford:
8:03 PM: It is surprisingly empty here at the Davis Graduate. After all, we ARE talking about the first Division I playoff game in UC Davis history, right? … Right?
8:04 PM: I mean, I know that it’s “just” the NIT, but I would still expect the student body to watch this game. It’s still kind of a big deal. Just sayin’.
8:07 PM: Here we go – UC Davis and Stanford. I think it’s pretty obvious – if the Ags got to the NCAA Tourney, it would be a MUCH bigger deal. But still – it’s half-empty in here.
8:08 PM: See? The announcers just said it – first-ever game in the postseason as a Divison I program. This is a big deal!
8:09 PM: Opening tip-off – wow. Aggies ball.
8:09 PM: Funny thing about these two schools – UC Davis has played Giant-killer to the Cardinal in the past – particularly in a three-sport sweep back in 2005. It’s doubtful the Aggies will be able to do the same here – but you never know. Of course, as soon as I say that, Stanford score a three to start the game.
8:11 PM: Ugh. Bad turnover there by UCD. I feel like their only chance to stay in this game is to take advantage of their shooting prowess. Then again, I don’t know how they do that without some semblance of an inside game.
8:13 PM: Adenrele draws the foul, which is good. He misses the first free throw is bad – kinda defeats the purpose.
8:13 PM: Man, Stanford already looks like they”ll be able to do whatever they want in the paint. This could be a long night.
8:14 PM: I love it – let ’em know, Dave Flemming – UC Davis is the best three-point shooting team in the nation. I just wish they had more of a well-rounded game – would’ve helped out huge in the Big West Tournament.
8:16 PM: Look at Davis chipping away. It’s only a two-point lead for Stanford. Now Davis has the ball.
8:16 PM: Ritchart misfires from three. That would’ve been the Aggies’ first lead if he made that.
8:17 PM: Nice shot from Avery Johnson. Flip up for the deuce. Haha – Avery Johnson.
8:19 PM: Dangit. Three-point play by Chasson Randle of Stanford.
8:21 PM: Randle completes the three-point play. Like I said – this could be a long night.
8:22 PM: Monson misses the layup for the Aggies from point-blank range. That hurts.
8:22 PM: Aggies can’t seem to get anything going from beyond the arc, so far. Unfortunately, that’s their bread-and-butter.
8:24 PM: A DUNK? You miss a point-blank DUNK?! Brutal – just absolutely brutal. At least we keep the ball, but GOOD LORD, you CANNOT miss shots like that.
8:26 PM: I love the fact that Dave Flemming is calling this game. Makes me happy. Go Giants.
8:28 PM: That’s Nastic’s second foul. Aggies have to take advantage of this while he’s on the bench.
8:29 PM: Turning the ball over on the ensuing possession will not help things for the Ags.
8:29 PM: Hawkins with the put-back after another missed three. UCD will take points however they can get them, at this point.
8:30 PM: Wow, Travis. What the hell kind of free-throw was THAT?! It barely hit the bottom of the NET.
8:30 PM: Timeout, Aggies. Man, this is certainly NOT the time for the team to keep misfiring from three. Worst possible time, really.
8:32 PM: WOW, that was a bad in-bounds pass by Stanford. But the Aggies return the favor by turning the ball over on the ensuing drive.
8:33 PM: No one can say Hawkins isn’t doing his part – that’s the second highlight shot of the night for him. Crossover, spin move, easy touch from ten feet. Beautiful.
8:34 PM: Another bad turnover. Listen, I’m okay with the Aggies losing a hard-fought game against a superior team. But they can’t keep shooting themselves in the foot like this.
8:40 PM: Corey Hawkins is money on two free throws. Aggies just cut it to 8. They have to shut down Stanford on the inside.
8:41 PM: Of course, as soon as I say that, Stanford nails a three. SMH.
8:42 PM: Hawkins nails the Aggies’ first three of the night. They’re gonna need a lot more than that, though.
8:43 PM: That’s Hawkins on another three! Just like that, it’s a five-point Cardinal lead. This, I believe, is the Aggies team we are accustomed to.
8:44 PM: Davis just forced a shot clock violation. Thank God for 30-second shot clocks in the NIT.
8:45 PM: Adenrele cuts it to three. We got ourselves a game, boys and girls.
8:46 PM: Tyler Les hits the three to tie it. WE GOT OURSELVES A GAME, boys and girls.
8:48 PM: Tied at 30 late in the first half? This is kind of a big deal. Keep it close, and who knows what can happen.
8:50 PM: And look at Hawkins – 18 of the team’s 30 points. He’s gonna need to have the game of his life – or his teammates have to step the hell up – if the Aggies wanna pull off the upset.
8:51 PM: four straight points from Stanford after the TV Timeout. No need to panic. Yet.
8:51 PM: Lemar with the three. Then Stanford with the three. Can’t have any of that.
8:52 PM: Boom. Another three from Hawkins. That’s 21 thus far. People better be paying attention to this guy.
8:52 PM: Missed both free throws by Stanford. I guess it was that kind of play that put the Cardinal in the NIT in the first place, huh?
8:54 PM: Down one, UC Davis still can’t take the lead – even with Hawkins’ magic hands.
8:55 PM: That’s the half. Stanford, 37. UC Davis, 36. Hawkins made the decision to go off late. We got a GAME, ladies and gentlemen. (I know, I know, I keep saying that.)
9:01 PM: See, now this is more like it – there was barely anyone in the building when the game started. It’s much more packed, now.
9:04 PM: Let’s take a look at Hawkins’ stats in the first half … 7-for-10 shooting … 3-for-6 from three … perfect on four free throws … four total rebounds?! … he’s leading the team in REBOUNDS right now. He’s doing everything. If they can pull this off, UCD’s gonna erect a monument for the guy.
9:12 PM: It’s surreal to see UCD being featured on ESPN – especially for men’s basketball. But there Corey Hawkins is.
9:13 PM: Good start by the Ags – forced a miss from close-range for Stanford.
9:14 PM: That’s most likely going to be Stanford’s gameplan for the rest of the game – just attack the paint and well off UCD’s shooters on defense.
9:16 PM: Now it’s a five-point lead for the Cardinal. That’s okay – I have a feeling UCD’s just lulling them to sleep with a growing lead. **wink**
9:18 PM: Nastic gets nailed with his third foul with 18 minutes left in the second half. Good. Good.
9:19 PM: Another point-blank shot they couldn’t convert. Granted, it was a tough angle, but, you know… still.
9:20 PM: Allen with the three, and it’s back to an 8-point lead. Hawkins answers back with a two of his own. Aggies just have to go for anything right now. The key is to stay within striking distance.
9:21 PM: That’s Nastic’s bread-and-butter – catch under the basket and get the easy shot. That’s gonna be killer, especially without a big body like Adenrele on the court right now.
9:23 PM: Graham with a nice move inside. This team’s got heart, that much is for sure.
9:26 PM: Just took a peek at the box score – every player except Monson for the Aggies has scored. Everyone but Hawkins has either two or three points. That’s how big of an impact Hawkins has had in this game.
9:27 PM: Another great lay-in by Hawkins. He’s doing it all, and it looks like he really has to.
9:28 PM: Back to an 11-point lead for the Cardinal. Davis has to get something going, and they cannot rely solely on Hawkins.
9:29 PM: You know, there was a time not too long ago that Ritchart was one of UCD’s best players. He’s 1-for-8 so far in this game. Not gonna cut it – especially with this 13-point deficit staring the Ags in the face.
9:32 PM: Another bad turnover by the Ags. It’s just a layup drill for Stanford, right now.
9:32 PM: There’s Hawkins again.
9:42 PM: Things aren’t looking too good. Not much has changed since I last checked in – UCD’s still down by double digits. Has Stanford settled in?
9:44 PM: Hawkins has 28 points, but the Aggies are still down 14. Imagine if he was having an off-day – this would be a massacre.
9:44 PM: Boom. Tyler Les with another three. He has to keep throwing those up right now, with Hawkins out of the game.
9:45 PM: Looks like Corey’s back in – let’s see what he can do right now.
9:46 PM: Stanford’s Marcus Allen has 22 points right now – mostly off close jumpers. That’s the kind of game UCD is going to have to utilize in the future – you know, if they can get the right personnel.
9:47 PM: Another point-blank miss by Ritchart – it’s just brutal to watch. Then again, you can make the case that that was a goal-tend.
9:49 PM: 5 minutes left, UCD down 17. Looking pretty bad right now – but, hey, if they can make some threes, they’re right back in it, right?
9:50 PM: Well, so much for that. Three straight missed three-point attempts.
9:50 PM: You can tell Hawkins is exhausted, but he’s still attacking the basket. All heart, baby.
9:53 PM: That’s 31 points for the senior from Goodyear, Arizona. Man, they’re gonna miss that guy.
9:54 PM: Anthony Brown with another easy drive to the basket. Davis was going to have a problem with these kinds of teams.
9:55 PM: Ritchart, it’s about time you hit a three. Unfortunately, it’s a 13-point deficit with less than three minutes to go.
9:56 PM: There’s the problem, right there – Hawkins has 34 points. Tyler Les is the second-leading scorer … with six.
9:58 PM: Oh, good. UCD has the ball again. Got the layup – it’s now an 11-point deficit.
9:59 PM: That’s the dagger. Long-range two by Randle with a minute remaining makes it a 13-point game.
10:00 PM: This Stanford team is simply too big, too well-rounded, too good for UCD to take out tonight.
10:02 PM: 35 seconds left. This is it for the Aggies.
10:03 PM: That should do it – Stanford has the ball. They’ll just dribble it out. It was a great season for the Ags. Too bad it ended like this, but what else can you ask for, right?
And that was it. After the best season in UC Davis men’s basketball history, the Aggies fell to the Cardinal by 13. This marks the final game for guards Corey Hawkins, Tyler Les and Avery Johnson, and forward Josh Ritchart. It will be interesting to see what head coach Jim Les will do with the team, moving forward – will he utilize a backcourt built on shooting accuracy, or try to find a frontcourt that will need size they desperately lacked against teams like Stanford, or a combination of the two?
No matter what Aggies men’s basketball does, they will embark on a new era of athletic success – one they had not seen since the Division II championship of 1998. Hopefully, the success does not end here.