UC Davis freshman Georgi Funtarov’s welcome-to-the-Pac-12 moment came quickly Saturday night at Maples Pavilion.
When the 6-foot-8 forward put up his first shot inside the key, Stanford’s Josh Huestis swatted it away.
For many freshmen – especially going against a tall, long and athletic Stanford team – it might have been time to call it a night.
He went on to score a team-high 13 points and grab six rebounds – one of the Aggies’ few highlights in an 83-56 loss to a Stanford team that last played Dec. 1.
It was UC Davis’ sixth loss in a row and dropped the Aggies to 0-5 on the road this season. Stanford (7-2) also extended its dominance over UC Davis (3-8) to 17-1, including 16-0 at home.
“I realized after they blocked my shot this was going to be a different game,” said Funtarov, a native of Sofia, Bulgaria, who also went against Dwight Powell, Stefan Nastic and John Gage – all 6-foot-10 or taller. “I knew I had to make some adjustments. More jump fakes. More trying to get away from them.”
Funtarov, who played a team-high 34 minutes, made his second start. He replaced injured Josh Ritchart, the Aggies’ 6-9 senior forward who is second on the team in scoring (17.3 points per game) and first in rebounding (6.6).
With Ritchart watching from the bench in street clothes and wearing a walking cast on his right foot and with several Aggies veterans struggling on the floor, Funtarov and fellow freshman Brynton Lemar, a 6-4 guard who played 31 minutes, wound up leading the team.
“We started two freshmen today, and they led us in scoring and did some good things,” UC Davis coach Jim Les said. “Guys are being thrown to the wolves a little bit, and those guys responded pretty well.”
But Les was disappointed his team shot so poorly, especially when Stanford jumped out to a 19-4 lead. UC Davis shot 34.5 percent for the game, including 35 percent from 3-point range. Stanford shot 58.5 percent from the field and 55.0 percent from 3-point range.
“We’re trying a lot of different things,” said Les, a former NBA player. “We’re getting extra shots (in practice), but it becomes mental.
“What I’m trying to encourage them, having been in this position before, is the best way to get out of it is to do all the other things.
“Rebound in traffic, get on the floor for a loose ball, take a charge. I just believe we have too many good shooters on this team to continue at this clip. But in the meantime, we’ve got to pick it up defensively.”
Still, it’s clear the Aggies need Ritchart.
He injured his right leg – Ritchart thinks it may be a stress fracture – Nov. 15 at Utah but continued to play even though the pain worsened until he said he could barely walk on it.
“It was really tough watching,” Ritchart said. “But I don’t know if I could have helped much the way my leg is right now.”
One bright spot for the Aggies was in rebounding, where Stanford had only a 35-32 advantage despite its sizeable height advantage. Funtarov and 6-8 juniors Clint Bozner and Iggy Nujic held their own against their taller opponents.
“It was a difficult challenge because most of the people we play aren’t like the 7-1 guy (Nastic, who’s actually listed at 6-11) I was guarding tonight,” Bozner said. “It’s too bad our shots didn’t fall. But we’re going to get this turned around.”