UC Davis’ 5,900-seat Pavilion may not rank among the mega college basketball venues in the country.
But UCD men’s coach Jim Les said the atmosphere and electricity during the Aggies’ nationally televised 73-67 overtime upset of Long Beach State on Saturday showed that bigger doesn’t necessarily have to be better.
“It was unbelievable,” Les said. “I’ve coached in (Duke’s) Cameron Indoor Stadium, I’ve played in Madison Square Garden and Boston Garden and to full houses, but the Pavilion takes a back seat to none of those places.”
ESPNU was impressed enough that it will return to the Pavilion for the Aggies’ Jan. 31 Big West Conference game against Cal Poly. With ESPN3 doing the Aggies’ Feb. 5 game at UC Irvine and Fox Sports Prime Ticket the Feb. 7 contest at Northridge, the Aggies will appear on three consecutive national broadcasts.
Les said the victory over Long Beach State is evidence that UCD (12-3, 2-0) is turning the corner after 10 losing seasons. The comeback win not only snapped an 11-game losing streak to the 49ers but helped the Aggies return to the CollegeInsider Mid-Major Top 25 national poll at No. 25.
“We are where we feel we can compete with the Long Beaches of this world,” Les said. “Not just be in the game. We expect to win now.”
Corey Hawkins put on another strong showing with 28 points, including seven in overtime, while playing 38 minutes. He credited the crowd, announced at 5,089, for keeping him energized through the exhausting game.
“That kind of support makes you want to win,” said Hawkins, ranked as the nation’s No. 25 player by ESPN’s John Gasaway this week. “It makes you want to play for a little bit more.”
Hawkins averages 20.2 points and is fourth nationally in three-point shooting percentage at 49.4.
“It’s awfully nice when Corey Hawkins can strap his team on his back and carry us offensively for a lot of possessions,” Les said. “He makes and takes big shots. He has unbelievable confidence, and our basketball team derives confidence from his swag.”
UCD faces a three-game road test as it plays Thursday at UC Riverside (8-8, 1-1), Saturday at Cal State Fullerton (8-8, 0-1) and Jan. 22 at Hawaii (13-5, 1-1).
Tough stretch – Big Sky Conference men’s basketball front-runner Eastern Washington (12-4, 3-0) comes to Sacramento State on Saturday night.
But the second-place Hornets (9-5, 3-1) aren’t thinking about that game, not with Idaho at The Nest on Thursday night.
The Vandals (7-7, 2-1) have a history of dominance over the Hornets.
Idaho is 14-1 all-time and 6-0 when playing in Sacramento. Idaho, a charter member of the Big Sky, left after the 1995-96 season before rejoining the 12-team conference this season.
The Vandals are coming off a tough 89-86 home loss to Eastern Washington on Saturday.
They are coached by Don Verlin, a Del Oro High School graduate who in seven seasons has become Idaho’s career wins leader. His twin brother, Ron, is the coach at Pacific.
Eastern Washington, which plays at Portland State on Thursday, has been the conference’s top team throughout the season. The Eagles upset Indiana 88-86 in Bloomington and topped defending Big Sky champion Weber State 84-78 at home to open conference play.
Junior guard Tyler Harvey leads the NCAA in scoring (23.4 points per game), three-pointers made (73) and is fifth in three-point percentage (.490).
Sac State started the Big Sky season 3-0 with a 63-61 win at North Dakota last Thursday when Mikh McKinney scored the winning basket with 2.6 seconds to play. Northern Colorado stopped the Hornets’ streak with an 84-73 win in Greeley on Saturday and moved into a tie with Sac State and Montana for second place.
The Hornets are 6-1 at home this year and 10-2 in their past dozen Big Sky home games dating back to last season.
McKinney is among the top nine players in the Big Sky in seven categories, including fifth in scoring (16.9). He is fourth nationally in steals per game (2.9).
But it’s Dylan Garrity, McKinney’s backcourt mate, who has had the hot hand of late. The senior guard has scored 24 or more points in three of the past five games. Garrity also is closing in on the Hornets’ career assists record: he’s 16 shy of DeShawn Freeman’s 501.
Call The Bee’s Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.
UPCOMING BASKETBALL GAMES
Men: Thursday, vs. Idaho, 7:05 p.m., 1380; Saturday, vs. Eastern Washington, 7:05 p.m., 1380; Jan. 22, at Idaho State, 6:05 p.m., 1380
Women: Thursday, at Idaho, 6 p.m.; Saturday, at Eastern Washington, 2 p.m.; Jan. 22, vs. Idaho State, 7 p.m.
Men: Thursday, at UC Riverside, 7 p.m., 105.5; Saturday, at Cal State Fullerton, 6 p.m., 105.5; Jan. 22, at Hawaii, 9 p.m., 105.5
Women: Thursday, vs. UC Riverside, 7 p.m., 90.3; Saturday, vs. Cal State Fullerton, 2 p.m., 90.3; Jan. 22, vs. Hawaii, 7 p.m., 90.3