UC Davis faces the classic trap game tonight at the Pavilion.
The Aggies (18-4, 8-1), in first place in the Big West Conference, have a four-game winning streak entering their game against last place Cal State Fullerton (9-14, 1-7). Next Thursday, the Aggies play at second-place Long Beach State (13-12, 7-2), which lost 73-67 in overtime Jan. 10 in Davis.
Fullerton lost its first six Big West games before beating Northridge 69-53 last Thursday. The Titans then lost to UC Riverside 71-66 in overtime at home Saturday, their third overtime loss in conference this season.
While UC Davis coach Jim Les is wary of a Titans’ team with little to lose, he doesn’t expect the Aggies to have a letdown.
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“Home court in league, you’ve got to win those games,” Les said. “We’ve got a standings board in the locker room that the players see every day. … (Tyler said) they are going to have to drag us out of the penthouse kicking and screaming.”
The Aggies, picked to finish seventh in the preseason media poll, are led by fifth-year seniors Corey Hawkins, Avery Johnson, Josh Ritchart and Tyler Les, the coach’s son. They’ve won all 10 home games this season and are trying to become the first team since Long Beach State in 2011-12 to finish a season undefeated at home.
They routed UC Irvine 75-56 on Friday and beat Northridge 68-55 on the road Saturday, both without Hawkins, who has dealt with a lower-leg injury most of the season.
While Hawkins, the conference’s scoring leader, is still day-to-day, Ritchart and Les have filled the offensive void.
Ritchart was named the Big West Player of the Week on Monday after averaging 21.5 points and shooting 70.8 percent from the field in the wins over Irvine and Northridge. Les had 32 combined points in the two wins.
The Aggies, ranked 13th in the CollegeInsider.com Mid Major Top 25, lead Division I in three-point percentage (46.2) and are No. 4 in field-goal percentage (50.3).
Role reversal – No. 14 Sacramento State (16-6, 10-1) plays at No. 12 Eastern Washington (18-5, 9-1) today in a first-place Big Sky Conference showdown.
Sac State has won seven consecutive games, including a 90-77 victory over the Eagles on Jan. 17 at the Nest. Since its loss to the Hornets, Eastern Washington has won five in a row, including a weekend sweep of Montana and Montana State, a first for the Eagles since 2004.
The Eagles did it without NCAA scoring leader Tyler Harvey, who hasn’t played since suffering a quad contusion Jan. 31 against Idaho.
Eastern Washington is looking for its 19th win, which would be its best since joining the Big Sky in 1987-88. The Eagles are 11-0 on their home court.
The Hornets beat visiting Portland State on Saturday for their 16th victory, the most since they moved up to Division I.
Tonight’s game features two of the best shooting teams in Division I. Sac State is third nationally in three-point percentage (41.7) and Eastern Washington is fifth (41.5). The Hornets are eighth in field-goal percentage (49.3) and Eagles are 13th (48.8).
Eastern Washington is 17-3 against the Hornets in Cheney, but two of the three Hornets’ wins were in the past three seasons.
Women are doing well, too – The Sac State and UC Davis women’s teams are within striking distance of first place in their conferences.
Sac State (10-12, 8-3) is tied for second with North Dakota in the Big Sky, one game behind league-leading Montana, heading into home games today against Eastern Washington (13-8, 6-4) and Saturday against Idaho (9-12, 3-7).
The Hornets lead Division I in three-pointers (12.1) per game, steals (17.3) and offensive rebounds (21), are second in turnover margin (12.14) and third in scoring (84.9).
Senior point guard Fantasia Hilliard has been named to the Nancy Lieberman Award Watch List, an award given annually to the top point guard in Division I.
Hilliard is fourth in career assists (634) and seventh in career steals (273) among active Division I players, and she leads the Big Sky in assists per game (4.8) and leads the Hornets in scoring (12.7 points).
UC Davis (11-10, 6-3), which beat UC Santa Barbara, Northridge and UC Irvine over an eight-day span, is in a four-way tie for second with Long Beach State, UC Riverside and Cal Poly, one game behind Hawaii.
Call The Bee’s Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.
Men: Today at Eastern Washington, 6:05 p.m., 1380; Saturday at Idaho, 7:05 p.m., 1380; Feb. 19 vs. Northern Colorado, 7:05 p.m., 1380
Women: Today vs. Eastern Washington, 7 p.m.; Saturday vs. Idaho, 2 p.m.; Feb. 19 at Northern Colorado, 7 p.m.
Men: Today vs. Cal State Fullerton, 7 p.m., 105.5; Feb. 19 at Long Beach State, 7 p.m., 105.5
Women: Today at Cal State Fullerton, 7 p.m., 90.3; Feb. 19 vs Long Beach State, 7 p.m., 90.3