Head Coach Jennifer Gross had said that the final two games were going to have “a high level of intensity and urgency.”
This ended up being a drastic understatement.
The UC Davis women’s basketball program came into its final two games of the regular season vying for a spot in the top four in the Big West Conference. Of the many outcomes that were possible from the tight race to the finish, the Aggies ended up splitting the two crucial games of the week and closed the regular season fourth in the conference.
The fourth-place finish gives the Aggies a first-round home game in the Big West Tournament against Pacific on Tuesday.
Thursday –– UC Davis 65, Cal Poly 61
On Thursday, visiting Cal Poly took advantage of a slow UC Davis start and built up a double-digit lead to begin the game.
The Aggies played a consistent ball game and did not let the early struggles affect their outlook. The Mustangs had a 15-5 lead before it looked like UC Davis would make its move.
“We came out and kept our composure nicely and possession by possession we battled back and we were right there in the game,” Gross said. “Teams are going to bring it for the first couple minutes and that establishes a tone.”
UC Davis battled back and pulled ahead 36-33 by halftime. We then shut down the Mustang offense to a 29.6 shooting percentage in the second half to pull away with a very close 65-61 victory.
Senior Samantha Meggison continued her string of strong performances with a 15-point game, going 7-8 from the free-throw line.
“It was our defense, we stayed focused on executing our game plan,” she said of the Aggies’ victory.
As Gross said, along with its defense, UC Davis shot a consistent 41 percent over both halves and got 23 points from their bench en route to the win.
“I was really pleased with our effort, we came up with stops and it was different lineups at different times in the game that got it done for us defensively today,” she said.
Saturday –– UC Santa Barbara 60, UC Davis 51
The Aggies started the final game of the season against the Gauchos much like they had on Thursday. A sluggish start translated into an early deficit that, this time, proved to be insurmountable for UC Davis.
UC Santa Barbara put up 14 straight points from opening tip-off before the Aggies would get on the board. UC Davis had strong performances from juniors Cortney French and Blair Shinoda off the bench to spark some life into their offense, but could not even the score by halftime. They went into the break down 32-22.
The Aggies would come out battling in the second half, but was unable to tie the game or take a lead. At times, it looked like they would pull even, but for every UC Davis basket the Gauchos had an answer.
“Right when we needed that stop to tie it up or pull ahead, they’d hit another one,” Gross said.
“Today I felt like we weren’t getting that pressure on the ball, and we rely on our defense to create turnovers,” she said. “With that pressure, we turn that into offensive points.”
UCSB shot close to 50 percent in the game, with a stellar 52 percent in the first half, while the Aggies shot below 40 percent.
“UCSB came out and made shots, but our pressure could have been better, I felt like it was a lack of focus and there were a few breakdowns we don’t usually have,” Gross said.
UC Davis had 29 of its 56 points come from the bench. French had 11 points that included a clutch three-pointer that kept the game within reach near the end, and freshman Sydnee Fipps’ 10 points also kept the Aggies in the game.
The Gauchos needed all the cushion they could get from that first half to hold off the late game charge from UC Davis to pull out the victory. The Aggies dropped to 17-11 overall and 9-7 in the Big West.
MATTHEW YUEN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.