Spoiler alert! UC Davis boasts shooters to ruin University of Hawaii’s party
In nine NBA seasons, Jim Les hit nearly 40% of his 3-point shots. But as UC Davis’ head coach, he does not believe in H-O-R-S-E-ing around.
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In nine NBA seasons, Jim Les hit nearly 40% of his 3-point shots.
But as UC Davis’ head coach, he does not believe in H-O-R-S-E-ing around.
“I talk a better game than I shoot a game,” Les said. “I just talk a lot of junk now that I’m older. I’ll leave it at that. I don’t want to have to shoot against (the Davis players) because they’ll put the ball in the basket.”
The Aggies hope to be party poopers for tonight’s game in which Hawaii will celebrate its program’s 100th season. Several former Rainbow Warriors coaches and players will be honored during timeouts and at halftime. Stan Sheriff Center will be adorned with displays showcasing the ’Bows’ past.
But the Aggies’ box scores are providing a spoiler alert. The Aggies top the Big West in 3-point marksmanship (36.5%) and free-throw accuracy (76.8%).
Seniors Joe Mooney, Stefan Gonzalez and Matt Neufeld supply leadership; freshmen Ezra Manjon and Elijah Pepper provide the oomph. Manjon, who plays the point in the Aggies’ four-guard attack, is averaging 19.0 points and swishing 72.7% of his 3s in four Big West games. Pepper is averaging 14.3 points and 6.5 rebounds in league play.
“They’re both fearless,” Les said of the two newcomers. “They’re both talented and confident guys. What I love about both is they’re humble and hard working. They’re embracing the process. They want to be coached. … Whether it’s defensive assignments or some of the offensive responsibilities we give both of them, we’ve got a lot of trust in them. It’s fun to watch them grow in front of our eyes.”
Jabari Trotter, who is UH’s point scout for this game, concedes the Aggies offer a unique challenge when they go to a small-ball lineup. The Aggies will use combinations of traps to try to force the ’Bows out of their offensive rhythm.
“There’s going to be a lot of mixup,” Trotter said. “Our guys are going to have to recognize early and attack.”
UH head coach Eran Ganot said: “We’ve been pretty battle tested. We’ve seen different lineups. Big. Small. We have to be prepared for that.”
The ’Bows also have shown multiple identities. They have paired a 7-foot center with 6-9 power forward Zigmars Raimo. They have down-sized the front line by moving Raimo to center and sliding Justin Hemsley to the four. Freshman post Bernardo da Silva is unlikely to play because of a foot injury, but 7-foot Owen Hulland can open the floor as a stretch five with deep-shooting range. The ’Bows also have mixed-and-matched the guards and wings. Last week, there were rotations when point guard Drew Buggs flexed into a wing defender.
“Our team is moving in a good direction,” Ganot said. “We’re still figuring out some pieces because new pieces have been added to the fold.”
A new wrinkle is Buggs’ buzzer-beating shooting. Last year’s senior, Brock Stepteau, mastered a specialty that earned the handle, “Late Clock Brocke.” This season, Buggs has weaved his way for three baskets just before the shot clock expired. Like many players, Buggs used to count down the seconds while practicing by himself.
“I did that all the time,” Buggs said. “In my backyard, I had a basketball court. In my house, I had a little one. I was always shooting. Late at night, early in the morning. It didn’t matter.”