Aggies drop Big West opener in OT – Daily Democrat
UC Davis’ Big West Conference reset got off to a rocky start Thursday night as the Aggies lost 69-71 in overtime at UC Irvine.
“I thought the resiliency and toughness this team showed was really something to build on,” Aggies head coach Jim Les said. “I can’t emphasis enough how proud I was of them stepping up and making big plays. And we had our chances. We had shots to win the game and that’s all you can ask for on the road.”
Trailing 19-28 after shooting 35 percent in the first half, the Aggies outscored UCI 42-33 in the second to force overtime. Down 25-41 at the 14:58 point in the second half, UC Davis went on an 18-2 run with a three by Joe Mooney and a fast break by TJ Shorts II tied the game at 43 with 9:19 to play.
Trailing again, this time 54-61 with 1:28 to play, a layup plus a free throw by Garrison Goode pulled UC Davis within 57-61. Following a UCI turnover, a missed jumper by Shorts II and two missed free throws by Irvine’s Elston Jones, Shorts II made it 59-61 on layup in transition.
Mooney tied the game at 61 with 11 seconds left on a fast break for the final two of UC Davis’ 16 fast break points. Irvine’s Evan Leonard missed a three at the other end, giving UC Davis a chance to win the game with six seconds to go but Shorts II missed with one second on the clock.
The Aggies did not call timeout before Shorts II’s final shot, much the same way Les did not use a timeout with UC Davis bringing the ball up the court with a chance to win in the final seconds of a loss to Sac State earlier this season.
After leading briefly on a dunk by Goode with 2:27 left in overtime, the Aggies trailed the rest of the way. A jumper by Shorts II on a fast break pulled UC Davis within 69-70 with 16 seconds left and the Aggies even benefited from a missed free throw by UCI’s Robert Cartwright but Shorts II’s final shot was again off.
“I told TJ that’s a great look,” Les said. “I live and die with him and he’s got the guts to take that shot and he can make that shot. I liked him going for the win.”
Shorts II scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half and overtime and led the Aggies with 10 rebounds. Mooney added 14 points, going 3-6 from three, and Matt Neufeld had 11.
“If you’re telling me this is who we’re gonna be night in, night out, they’re going to give themselves a chance to do some really good things,” Les said.
The Aggies stay in southern California to face Long Beach State on Saturday at 4 p.m. on ESPN3 and AM 1380.