Before tip-off Wednesday night against No. 18 Arizona State, UC Davis was outmatched on paper in almost every phase of the game.
The Aggies did not let that get to them.
After falling behind 14-0 in the game’s first 3:18 of play, the Aggies matched the Sun Devils point-for-point from then on in a 73-59 loss at the Pavilion.
“It was essentially a mismatch that we had tonight,” head coach Sandy Simpson said. “They are very patient trying to get everything into the post. We felt that we needed to shut down the inside game first. We did what we needed to do there, but Briann [January] was just brilliant.“
January lit up the Aggies from long range, going 7-for-9 from beyond the arc in scoring a career-high 25 points.
“The nerves got to us,” sophomore Paige Mintun said regarding Arizona State’s fast start. “The pressure was nothing like we expected. After the first timeout, we were told to relax and just breathe and after that we really did.“
UC Davis took the momentum of a Haylee Donaghe buzzer-beater into the second half, going on a tear to cut the lead to three points in a matter of minutes.
But January’s precision from downtown was too much for the Aggies, as she scored the game’s next 12 points – all coming on three-point opportunities.
Mintun led the way for UC Davis, scoring 18 points on 6-for-13 shooting, collecting eight rebounds and holding the Sun Devils‘ post players at bay.
“[Arizona State] is a legitimate team,” said Mintun. “There are four [post players]. They are all huge and they come in and out. We had to show big. They brought me outside because they are not used to defending out there and I took advantage of them.“
Freshman Samantha Meggison came off the bench to score 12 points, while senior Haylee Donaghe added nine for the Aggies.
Despite the loss, the Aggies are proud of their effort against an opponent of Arizona State’s caliber.
“As a team, we were really excited,” said Meggison. “We proved to ourselves that we could play with top teams.“
“I am so proud of all us,” said Mintun. “I felt that we really stepped up. After the 14-point [deficit], I knew that this team had so much character and would come back and eventually be in the game.“
UC Davis outrebounded Arizona State 28-23 to gain a 22-18 advantage in the paint. The Aggies also had a 12-6 advantage in second-chance points.
Looking toward the rest of the season, the Aggies see this game as a barometer for success down the road.
“To see how well we played against this top-25 team really shows what we can do and how far we can go,” said Mintun.
UC Davis continues play on the road Saturday afternoon against St. Mary’s (1-7). Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.
MAX ROSENBLUM can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.