Men's Basketball

Homecourt excellence fuels Sac State, UC Davis men’s basketball success

Homecourt moxie and veteran leadership are the primary reasons the UC Davis and Sacramento State men’s basketball teams are drawing big crowds and leading their respective conferences, something they hope continues in critical games Saturday night.

The Aggies (15-4, 4-1) are 9-0 at the Pavilion, including 3-0 in Big West Conference games, entering their game against visiting Cal Poly (10-9, 3-4) on ESPNU.

The Hornets (14-6, 8-1) are 9-1 at the Nest, including 5-0 in the Big Sky Conference, as they prepare to host second-place Montana (11-8, 7-1).

Many games for both schools have been decided in the final minutes of regulation or overtime.

“I think it’s maturity and experience, and I think it’s a confidence and a swagger that this team has,” UCD coach Jim Les said after the Aggies beat UC Santa Barbara 70-64 Thursday night by outscoring the Gauchos 8-2 in the final 75 seconds.

The Aggies have won two overtime games at home, beating Utah State 77-70 in a nonconference contest and topping Big West tri-leader Long Beach State 73-67 on Jan. 10 in another ESPNU game.

UCD has a starting lineup of seniors Corey Hawkins, Josh Ritchart and Avery Johnson, redshirt junior J.T. Adenrele and redshirt sophomore Darius Graham. Their top reserves are senior Tyler Les, junior Josh Fox and sophomores Neal Monson and Brynton Lemar.

Sac State held off Northern Arizona 78-73 in a Big Sky opener on Jan. 1, rallied from 11 points down to beat Idaho 79-76 on Jan. 15 and broke open a tie game at halftime to top Eastern Washington 90-77 on Jan. 17 to knock the Eagles out of first place.

Hornets Dylan Garrity, Mikh McKinney, Alex Tiffin and Zach Mills are seniors, Cody Demps and Dreon Barlett are juniors, and Nick Hornsby and Eric Stuteville are sophomores who played a lot as freshmen.

“Having the experience in these type of games definitely helps,” Demps said after the Eastern Washington win. “You can’t replicate that in practice, no matter how hard you try.”

With UCD having set a record for Division I wins and Sac State closing in, too, fan interest has climbed. Sellouts are possible for both on Saturday.

In beating Montana State 75-59 on Thursday, Sac State brought in extra seating and had an announced standing-room crowd of 1,215, its largest since beating UC Davis 82-70 in 2008. UCD officials are anticipating a larger crowd than the 5,089 the Aggies drew against Long Beach State.

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