Men's Basketball

Sacramento State, UC Davis look for three-peat against first-round tournament foes

Sacramento State Hornets center Eric Stuteville (44) and teammates meet before the start of the first half.
Sacramento State Hornets center Eric Stuteville (44) and teammates meet before the start of the first half. jvillegas@sacbee.com

UC Davis and Sacramento State open their respective men’s basketball conference tournaments Thursday looking to beat their first-round opponents for the third time this season.

The Big West Conference tournament No. 1-seeded Aggies beat No. 8 Northridge 71-61 at the Pavilion and 68-55 in Southern California. The teams play at noon in the quarterfinals at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

Josh Ritchart, Avery Johnson and Tyler Les of UCD (24-5) were the difference-makers in both regular-season games against Northridge, combining for 38 points in the first meeting and 45 in the second encounter, a game conference Player of the Year Corey Hawkins missed because of a leg injury.

The Matadors (9-23), coached by former Kings player and coach Reggie Theus, are led by seniors Stephan Hicks and Stephen Maxwell, the school’s career scoring and rebounding leaders, respectively.

The Big Sky Conference tournament No. 3-seeded Hornets topped No. 6 Portland State 64-60 at the Nest and 73-60 in Portland during the regular season. They play at 12:30 p.m. in the quarterfinals at Montana.

In the Hornets’ win at Portland State (15-13), they broke open what had been a close game by going on a 20-9 run in the final 6:11. It was Sac State’s last regular-season win before losing road games at Southern Utah and Northern Arizona.

The Hornets (19-10) didn’t secure the win in Sacramento until a Portland State turnover with 18 seconds left, followed by two Dylan Garrity free throws. Garrity and Mikh McKinney combined for 33 of the Hornets’ 64 points.

Portland State is led by all-Big Sky honorable mention senior guard DeShaun Wiggins, the Vikings’ scoring leader at 15.8 points per game.

CollegeInsider.com has the Aggies at No. 9 and Sac State at No. 21 in its Mid-Major Top 25 poll this week.

UCD role player UCD coach Jim Les said junior forward Josh Fox is much deserving of his Big West Conference Sixth Man award.

“You could probably make an argument that he could be a starter for how productive he is,” said Les during Monday’s Big West media conference. “He’s a guy who says, ‘I’m totally cool with it; I love that role.’”

The 6-foot-6 Fox averages 9.4 points and leads all Aggies with 132 rebounds. The Big West honorable mention selection also shot 60.2 percent from the field (106 of 176) and had 34 assists. He had season highs of 23 points and nine rebounds in a 77-70 overtime win over Utah State on Jan. 26 at the Pavilion.

“He rebounds, defends multiple positions and on nights when we’ve been struggling scoring the ball, he picks up the slack,” Les said. “He’s also been a guy we like to run our offense through and put the ball in his hands because he makes really good decisions.”

Fox transferred to UCD this season from City College of San Francisco after playing his freshman year at UC Riverside, where he scored 22 points against the Aggies.

“I just love being a part of this,” said Fox last Thursday after scoring 14 points to help the Aggies beat UC Riverside and claim the school’s first Big West championship. “This truly is a family. I am blessed.”

No slippers for Aggies Long Beach State coach Dan Monson said UCD isn’t a Cinderella team. He said the Aggies are the clear Big West tournament favorites.

“They beat us all,” Monson said. “We’ve had two months playing each other, and they’re 14-2. That’s incredible. Everybody talks about they’re going undefeated at home, which is a great feat. But going 6-2 on the road is probably a harder feat.”

The 49ers lost 73-67 in an overtime, nationally televised thriller at the Pavilion on Jan. 10, then fell 65-58 to the Aggies in Long Beach on Feb. 19.

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Viewing parties Sac State will hold on-campus viewing parties for the men’s and women’s teams in the Big Sky tournament.

Thursday’s 12:30 p.m. men’s quarterfinal against Portland State will be shown at the University Union Redwood Room. The union will also host the viewing party for the women’s 10 a.m. semifinal game Friday against North Dakota.

Should the men advance to Friday’s semifinal, that 7 p.m. game will also be shown at the Redwood Room. If Sac State advances to Saturday’s men’s title game at 6 p.m., it will be shown at Round Table Pizza on campus and Hinde Auditorium.

If the women’s team advances to Saturday’s 1 p.m. championship, Sac State would host a viewing party at the Hornets Nest Food Court.

Call The Bee’s Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.

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