The UC Davis men’s basketball team enters this season looking to improve on what was a very difficult first season for Head Coach Jim Les. Last year, the Aggies were 5-26 and 3-13 in the Big West conference. So far this season, Davis is 4-9 and 0-2 in Big West play, ranking ninth in the conference thus far. The Big West preseason media poll, released in October, predicted the team would finish in ninth place by season’s end.

“We are in a rebuilding of the program mode and we are very excited about the steps we have taken,” Head Coach Jim Les said. “We have changed the culture surrounding our program. We have been extremely competitive in all of our contests and now the next step is to close out games and win games.”

The Aggies began the preseason with a pair of losses before picking up their first win against Sacramento State. The victory was short lived, however, when the team dropped its next four matchups. Davis blew out Eastern Washington 87-65 to get their first home win of the year.

Even with the slow start, the team still seems to be much improved. UC Davis was one of the worst scoring teams a year ago, as they finished averaging only 62.1 points per game. This season they already average 71.5 points per game, fourth in the Big West, thanks to the return of junior guard Ryan Sypkens and the arrival of sophomore guard Corey Hawkins.

“Those two guys have really impacted our team and making us competitive and changing the culture,” Les said. “Now it is just a matter of them learning to play together and getting other players acclimated with them and getting them to play well within the system.”

The two guards are big reasons why Davis is tops in the league in scoring. Hawkins, in his first season after transferring from Arizona State, averages 17.8 points per game, fourth in the Big West. Hawkins also averages over three assists and 1.6 steals per game. Sypkens ranks as the eighth-leading scorer in the Big West with 15 points per game. He is also the leading three-point shooter with 3.8 three-point shots made per game and a .505 three-point field goal percentage.

On the defensive side of the ball, sophomore forward J.T. Adenrele and senior guard Ryan Howley pace the Aggies. Adenrele leads the team with 1.5 blocks per game to go along with his 5.3 rebound average. Howley ranks second in the Big West behind only UC Santa Barbara’s Alan Williams with 9.3 boards per game.

Moving forward, the Aggies will play two more home games before setting out on the road again, where they are just 1-6 this season. Davis next plays on Thursday, Jan.10, when they will host Cal Poly. The Mustangs are 7-6 and are currently undefeated in conference games at 3-0.

A version of this article appeared on page 9 of January 9th, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.