Teams: UC Davis vs. Pacific
Records: Aggies, 17-11 (9-7); Tigers, 16-12 (9-7)
Where: The Pavilion
When: Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Who to Watch: If defense is one of the focuses of the UC Davis women’s basketball program, then junior Hannah Stephens is one of the essential catalysts that makes it work.
Never mind that in the Aggies’ previous two meetings with Pacific this year Stephens dropped 13 and 12 points, respectively. The team has stressed that it truly is its defense that wins games.
Stephens put up seven steals against the Tigers this season, and had six in the first round of the Big West Conference tournament last year.
Did you know? Senior Samantha Meggison is a strong scoring threat for UC Davis, and other teams know it. She has 109 points from the charity stripe, and her 143 attempts are more than double every team member’s except Stephens’ 75.
Preview: Lucky for UC Davis, its loss in the final game of the regular season will not be the last game the class of 2012 plays at the Pavilion.
Despite a close loss to UC Santa Barbara, the Aggies clinched fourth place when Cal Poly beat Pacific, whose 9-7 conference record is equal to that of UC Davis.
UC Davis will thus host Pacific on Tuesday in the first round of the conference tournament. The Aggies edged the Tigers both times they played this year, 59-51 in the first game, then 65-61, which is why they get the nod as the fourth seed in the Big West.
The fourth-place finish puts the Aggies in the same position they were in last year, which could be a good omen for them, considering that UC Davis put together a clutch series of games to win the conference tournament in 2011.
“With our conference, everybody’s capable of winning big games,” head coach Jennifer Gross said. “Whether it’s an upset or not I don’t know, but we’re focused on playing our best basketball.”
The Big West tournament presents a different sort of challenge because of the dense playing schedule. What makes this year’s roster unique is its balance and strong bench, and it is this across-the-board effort that could provide an advantage in the championship tournament.
“We’ve utilized a deep bench all year and when we’ve needed our kids to step up, our bench can do that for us,” Gross said. “It’s a positive heading into the playoffs, knowing that I can go to my bench and feel super confident that we’re going to get great production from them.”
UC Davis must breathe a sigh of relief that it will be hosting Pacific, as it is a stellar 9-3 when playing on Hamilton Court.
“We’re a very confident basketball team, we believe in ourselves and we’re going to try to defend our title,” Gross said. “We’re going to bring everything we have and I hope that’s going to be enough to get us into the finals.”
— Matthew Yuen