College Sports

UC Davis looks to end two-game slide with Big West tournament looming

UC Davis’ Brynton Lemar (0) is just five points shy of 1,000 for his Aggies career.
UC Davis’ Brynton Lemar (0) is just five points shy of 1,000 for his Aggies career. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

With two weeks remaining in the regular season, conference tournament pictures have begun to take shape as local college basketball teams try to improve their seeding.

The UC Davis men (16-11, 8-4) enter Thursday’s game against Cal State Northridge in second place in the Big West Conference after losing back-to-back road games last week.

Coach Jim Les said the Aggies are where he hoped they would be: competing for a conference title.

“It’s the little things and it’s the attention to detail that wins you games late in the season,” he said.

UCD trails UC Irvine (16-12, 9-3) with three conference games left. But the Aggies still can be overtaken by Northridge, Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach State or Hawaii. Those four teams trail UCD by fewer than two games.

In Saturday’s 79-72 loss to Fullerton, Aggies forward Chima Moneke had 11 points and 11 rebounds for his conference-leading 10th double-double this season. UCD guard Brynton Lemar had 20 points and moved within five points of 1,000 for his career, a feat Les labeled “tremendous” in the program’s Division I era.

It’s the little things and it’s the attention to detail that wins you games late in the season.

Jim Les, UC Davis men’s basketball coach

The Aggies play three of their final four games at home, starting Thursday at 7 p.m. against Northridge. Their matchup against Hawaii on March 2 will not count toward conference records.

The regular-season finale March 4 at UC Irvine could prove crucial in deciding the top seeds in the Big West tournament, which begins March 9 in Anaheim.

UCD women – The first-place Aggies (19-6, 10-2) entered Wednesday’s home game against Cal Poly riding a six-game winning streak. They had the conference’s best offense (69.8 points per game) and defense (60.0 points allowed).

Aggies forward Morgan Bertsch led the Big West with 26.0 points per 40 minutes through 12 conference games.

The top two regular-season finishers will have a first-round bye in the Big West tournament.

Sacramento State men – The Hornets (10-15, 7-7) remain in a battle for seeding in the Big Sky Conference tournament. They are seventh among 11 eligible teams after losing at Montana State 62-59 on Saturday to end their three-game winning streak.

The .500 conference record is a significant improvement over last season’s 6-12 mark and shows the team’s resilience after an 0-3 start.

“We’re still in the battle for the fourth or fifth seed,” coach Brian Katz said.

The top five seeds receive a first-round bye in the conference tournament, which begins March 7 in Reno. Montana and Montana State (both 14-14, 9-6) entered this week as the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds.

Katz attributed some of the Hornets’ recent success to better rebounding. Sac State ranks fifth in the Big Sky with an average of 34.5 defensive rebounds in conference games.

“We’re routinely outrebounding teams, and that’s exciting,” Katz said.

This week appears favorable for the Hornets. They return to the Nest, where they’ve won four in a row, to face Northern Arizona (7-20, 4-10) on Thursday and Southern Utah (5-22, 3-11) on Saturday.

Katz described Northern Arizona as “capable” and noted the Lumberjacks’ 68-67 triumph over first-place North Dakota (17-8, 12-3) on Jan. 28. The Hornets visit North Dakota on March 2.

Sac State women – The Hornets (9-16, 5-9) have lost five of their past six games and will finish with a worse conference record than last season’s 10-8 mark. Sac State visits Northern Arizona (7-18, 3-11) on Thursday.

We’re routinely outrebounding teams, and that’s exciting.

Brian Katz, Sac State men’s basketball coach

Sitting in ninth place, the Hornets could rise two spots entering the conference tournament, which begins March 6 in Reno.

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