Tied at 4-4 entering the first official timeout of Friday’s home opener at the Pavilion, UC Davis scored eight straight points when play resumed and never looked back in its 95-62 victory versus William Jessup.
UC Davis will play its last three non-conference games on the road, starting with Tuesday’s 1:30 p.m. matchup at Cal Baptist, and will enter that game against the Lancers with a 2-2 record.
Led by Kennedy Koehler, Ezra Manjon and Damion Squire, who each scored a team-high 16 points, five Aggies finished in double figures against the Warriors in their lone home non-conference game of the season. Elijah Pepper and Caleb Fuller ended their evening with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
In addition to leading all players with six rebounds, Koehler’s points total is a new career high.
UC Davis was the fourth Division I team William Jessup faced this season after opening the year at Fresno State and competing in last week’s tournament that included games at Portland and against Seattle. In each of those three games, the Warriors more than held their own and nearly upset the Pilots in their own event.
“I told our guys this: (William Jessup) already played three Division I games. This is a team that is not going to be overwhelmed or enamored; we will need to play systematically and methodically with our pressure, defense and ball movement,” said head coach Jim Les.
It was UC Davis’ trademark defense that allowed it to pull away as the game progressed and ultimately record a blowout result. Not only did the Aggies score 29 points off 21 WJ turnovers, they enjoyed a 16-2 run throughout a three-minute block of action in the second half, and shot 60.7 percent from the floor after halftime.
Said Koehler: “The way our defense is set up, taking a charge is our bread and butter. If we are rotating and in the right position, then we are going to go vertical, or take a charge. Taking a charge is a great thing; we usually try for six a game. Those plays set the tone where someone is willing to take that contact on their body and take the ball the other way.”
“What I really like about this group,” said Les, “is that they respond to the coaching staff nudging them in the right direction. We did not like our defense in the first half – we let them shoot 46 pct. and gave up 22 paint points. We talked about that (at halftime) and what our defense needs to look like in the second half. I thought the guys responded with pressure; we got some charges, some turnovers, and that got us going offensively.”
UC Davis’ stellar free throw shooting from last season – it finished the 2019-20 campaign as the league’s top team with its shooting percentage – carried over to the first three games of the year, and was on display throughout the entire game. Of their 25 trips to the line, the Aggies hit 23 shots (92 pct.).
“We have a group that takes pride in spending time in the gym. We are big believers that if you put in the time, pay your dues and respect the game, it will pay you back in return,” said Les.
“I cannot tell you how many times guys are getting in the gym and getting extra shots up early in the morning when I am arriving to the office, or late at night on their own time. That is a credit to them.”
– Eric Bankston