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Ritchart leads Aggies' late surge

Campus Canvass
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Josh Ritchart knew it was only a matter of time before he and his teammates at UC Davis reaped the rewards of their hard work this season. There were certainly some doubts a few weeks ago as the Aggies were mired in an 18-game losing skid. But Davis is looking dangerous again heading into the Big West Conference Tournament next week in Anaheim. “We have a new coach and we’ve had a lot of injuries early on,” Ritchart said. “We’ve kept the mentality that we want to get better every day and play hard all 40 minutes. We know we’re the underdogs going in at this point, but we want to win a couple more and get momentum going into the conference tournament.” Ritchart has spearheaded the Aggies’ turnaround. UC Davis has won four of six games heading into today’s game at Cal Poly. The Forest Lake Christian graduate was named the Big West Player of the Week on Monday after leading Davis to a big win over Cal State Fullerton last week. He scored 20 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out four assists as the Aggies stunned Fullerton. He blocked a potential game-tying three-pointer in the closing seconds. “You look at the stats and it’s a well-rounded game,” first-year Davis coach Jim Les said in a press release. “We knew coming in what a good scorer and a good shooter Josh is, but he’s starting to rebound, the other night he had four assists, he’s blocking some shots and he’s having a presence defensively.” A 6-9 sophomore, Ritchart is suddenly one of the more experienced Aggies. He’s emerging as a leader for a team that includes just two seniors and three juniors. “My first year I was getting adjusted to the college game,” Ritchart said. “I’ve gotten a lot bigger and stronger and that’s helped me a lot. And the game has slowed down a lot. I don’t have the nerves and stuff like that so it makes it easier, the more experience I get.” Ritchart leads the Aggies in total points, scoring 12.4 per game. He is second on the team in rebounding with 5.4 per game, he’s tied for the team lead with 18 blocks on the year and he’s played more minutes than any other Aggie this season. Les has urged Ritchart to move beyond just jump shots and he has responded. He’s worked on slashing to the rim and using his 225-pound frame to post up smaller defenders. “Teams have been limiting my shots, so I have to be more than just a spot-up shooter,” he said. UC Davis (5-23 overall, 3-11 Big West) is a long shot in the Big West tourney, where Long Beach State will be a huge favorite. But Ritchart believes the pieces are in place for the Aggies to join the title hunt in the near future. “For the future, we’re all pretty excited,” said Ritchart, who is majoring in communications. “One of our better players is out for the season and we have another transfer from Arizona State who’s going to help us a lot. We’re expecting big things for the future.”