After a seven-week layoff and 11 consecutive game cancellations due to health and safety protocols instilled by Yolo County, the UC Davis Aggies will host the Gauchos on Friday and Saturday for an inter-conference doubleheader.
Coach Joe Pasternack’s boys had an impressive prior week, which saw them outscore the CSUN Matadors by a combined 69 points over two games and push their unbeaten run to six games. Senior guard JaQuori McLaughlin continued making his case for Big West Conference Player of the Year by earning his fifth Player of the Week honor after averaging 23 PTS, 4 REB and shooting an outstanding 67% on 3PFG over the two games. Junior forward Amadou Sow continues to dominate the paint on both ends of the court and will go for his fifth consecutive double-double against the Aggies while striving to extend his substantial lead atop the Big West rebounding charts.
The Aggies, who split their series at UC San Diego, are led by last year’s Big West Freshman of the Year Ezra Manjon, who in only six games is the conferences’ second-leading scorer at 17.8 PPG. The matchup with UCSB comes at a perfect time, as he and Sow were both added to the Lou Henson Award Preseason Watch List, which is presented annually to the top mid-major player in Division I.
Aggies coach Jim Les is a former scrappy NBA guard, who interestingly played on the 1989-1990 Santa Barbara Islanders team that lasted one season in the CBA, the NBA’s development league at the time. In their two conference games so far, he has employed undersized starting lineups that include players like 6’7” Kennedy Koehler and 6’5” Caleb Fuller in the frontcourt. Koehler’s potential matchup with Sow in the post could be exciting, as the senior Aggie is second in the Big West in blocks per game.
As Les’ former playing style suggests, the Aggies thrive off of free throws and streaky 3-point shooting. Despite the limited sample of games, the team already leads the Big West in team FT% (79.9) and is coming off making nine 3-pointers against the Tritons last Saturday.
With the Aggies clearly taking any size mismatch on paper with a grain of salt and continuously seeking to attack the rim, it will be important for Sow, junior forward Miles Norris and other frontcourt players in particular to stay out of foul trouble.
If Sow does play solid minutes in both matchups, he could become UCSB’s 30th 1000-point scorer in school history. Currently, he is 35 points away from surpassing that benchmark.
Friday and Saturday’s games between UCSB and UC Davis will tip off at 4 p.m. at The Pavillion.