“I feel like it was like that rush,” senior forward David Samuels said when asked about the team’s slow start.
“That rush hit us all,” Samuels said. “We were so anxious to just play. I can speak for myself on that one, but a few guys told me the same thing. We got that rush, and we just needed to slow down.”
The 49ers (13-15) never found any rhythm in the first half or for much of the game, recklessly turning the ball over and missing their free throws. Head coach Dan Monson said, despite the loss, he was satisfied with his team’s effort and fight.
“We rebounded [well],” Monson said. “We defended [well]. What happened was, in this skid, we didn’t play with that type of intensity [to start the game], and now that throws you into a rhythm problem.”
UC Davis senior forward Corey Hawkins, the Big West Conference scoring leader at 20.8 points per game, erupted in the second half after being held to just five points in the first half. Hawkins had 21 of game-leading 26 points in the second, including going five of seven from deep.
“It’s hard to shut off a fountain like that when it starts flowing,” Monson said of Hawkins’ performance.
The 49ers rallied in the second half, cutting the lead to single digits several times. Every time they made the game remotely close, Hawkins, who missed the last five games for the Aggies (20-4, 10-1) came back to bury a huge shot.
“It’s really frustrating,” Samuels said. “[We were] working that hard [on defense], and he hits those shots, but it happens. We can’t allow it to happen that often.”
The 49ers fought hard and had a chance in the final seconds. After a made basket by sophomore guard Branford Jones, senior forward Eric McKnight forced a turnover on the ensuing inbounds pass down only four points. LBSU missed a three-pointer, and the Aggies sealed the game with free throws.
“Everyone [in the Big West] is playing at a high level,” Monson said. “We have to get ourselves there and we only have three weeks to do it.”
LBSU had another poor offensive performance, shooting 20 percent from beyond the arc and 35 percent overall. The 49ers’ best shooting performance during their four-game losing streak was 40 percent against Cal Poly on Feb. 14.
A seven-point loss made the 49ers’ nine of 18 free throw shooting even more painful.
“It kind of snowballs,” Monson said on the team’s offensive struggles. “We have to get some guys other than [senior point guard] Mike [Caffey] and Dave [Samuels] to score for us. We have too many guys that are inconsistent. It’s not just the guys coming off the bench. Our starters are too inconsistent right now.”
The 49ers have a week to prepare for their next opponent; they will travel to Honolulu to take on the Rainbow Warriors Thursday at 9 p.m.