After playing one of its best games of the season in a 73-59 loss at home against Arizona State on Dec. 3, UC Davis began its winter break with five straight road games.
“Against Arizona State, we had one of our best performances of the year,“ said head coach Sandy Simpson. “We played even with them and in some parts even outplayed them.“
The Aggies looked to take this momentum on their five-game road swing.
UC Davis did that against their first opponent in Saint Mary’s, but key injuries and a lack of experience had the Aggies wishing for the New Year after losing their next five.
Dec. 6 – UC Davis 85, Saint Mary’s 69
UC Davis looked to start its road trip off with a bang as they headed to play the Gaels before finals week.
The Aggies started sluggish but picked up the pace toward the end of the first half and ran away with the game in the second period of play.
“We got down early, getting behind by as much as 15 points,“ Simpson said, “but we came back and had a 23-point lead at one point.“
Sophomore Paige Mintun was one of four Aggies in double figures with 18 points.
UC Davis was also able to keep the turnovers at a relative minimum, only turning the ball over 13 times, far less than their season average of 20.
“I was happy with that performance,” Simpson said. “We took good care of the ball, shot well and played smooth offensively. We were struggling but in the second half we turned it around to play well.“
Dec. 13 – Sacramento State 53, UC Davis 45
As the saying goes, in rivalry games you can throw everything out the window.
With only one win entering the contest, the Hornets upset the Aggies in the women’s basketball installment of the Causeway Classic.
“We had a lackluster performance and are capable of playing at a much higher level,” Simpson said.
The Hornets were aided by junior Charday Hunt, who had a game-high 19 points.
Freshman Lauren Juric recorded a double-double for UC Davis, finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds, but it was not enough to overcome the sting of the Hornets. The Aggies shot just 33 percent from the field.
“[Sacramento State] is a team that didn’t have a great record,” Simpson said. “We were probably favored and we should have played better. We were flat offensively and defensively and our veterans committed 18 turnovers between them.“
Dec. 17 – No. 22 South Dakota State 59, UC Davis 47
When junior Haylee Donaghe went down with a knee injury less than eight minutes into the game, the Aggies‘ chances of upsetting the nationally-ranked Jackrabbits went down with her.
Up 12-6 at that point, UC Davis was only able to extend their lead to eight points before the Jackrabbits went on a 19-4 run to the end the half.
“On a team with three or four veterans she was missed, but I am happy with our effort,” Simpson said. “We played fairly well defensively.“
Mintun led the Aggies with a game-high 14 points and came up one board shy of a double-double.
Sophomore Kristin Rotert led the Jackrabbits with 11 points.
The difference in the game was South Dakota State’s nine three-point field goals compared to only two from UC Davis.
Dec. 20 – Creighton 61, UC Davis 58
For the first time this season, the Aggies played a game that was decided on the last shot.
It did not go the Aggies‘ way.
UC Davis did everything it had to do to keep pace with fellow 2007 Women’s National Invitational Tournament invitee, but could not hit the last shot to send the game into overtime.
Mintun scored a team-high 24 points on 9-for-18 shooting from the floor. She also grabbed seven rebounds and had three steals.
Freshman Cortney French also chipped in with 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting.
“Cortney French had her best performance of the year off the bench and [Kasey] Riecks and Mintun played well,“ Simpson said.
This was not enough, however, to overcome a game-high 26 points and 13 rebounds from junior Megan Neuvirth.
The Aggies dropped to 4-5 overall and 1-2 in games in which Donaghe has either left early or missed a game due to injury.
Dec. 28 – No. 8 Stanford 84, UC Davis 49
For the first time all season, UC Davis could only suit up eight players due to injury.
The timing could have been better.
Playing against a national title contender, the Aggies fell to Stanford on the road at Maples Pavilion, 84-49.
“The score is not indicative of how we played,” Simpson said. “I thought we did some good things in that game. [Stanford] is one of the top-5 teams in the country. We only had eight in uniform and once [Lisa] Peterson got hurt, we only had seven.“
Senior Genevieve Costello hit five three-pointers for UC Davis to help the Aggies to 46 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
However, a lack of depth and the physicality of Stanford proved to be too much for UC Davis in the second half.
Tuesday – Seattle 65, UC Davis 59
For the second consecutive game, UC Davis was only able to put eight players in uniform.
It caused them trouble again.
The Aggies and Redhawks traded baskets during the first 30 minutes of play, resulting in six lead changes and two ties.
However, with 9:56 remaining, a three-pointer from senior Chelsie Morrison, who had a game-high 16 points, put Seattle up by two – a lead that it wouldn’t relinquish.
“We tend to play up and down to the talent level [of our opponent],” Simpson said. “[Seattle] played well defensively. We thought we could pick it up during the game but we didn’t. We have played better than that in many games this season.“
After going 2-6 in December, the Aggies will have to pick up the pace as Big West Conference play begins.
Simpson isn’t worried about the record, however, as last year’s team bounced back from a 1-7 December showing to take second in the Big West.
“Last year after Christmas we returned from a Midwest road trip in which we played horribly,” Simpson said, “but bounced back. The team showed resiliency to come back and had a pretty good season.“
Simpson believes this year’s squad team can do the same, but acknowledges that with such a young team, it will take some time.
“[Sunday] is a new season,” Simpson said. “It’s league play. If we win Sunday, we are 1-0. We have to play well and start feeling good about ourselves.“
UC Davis began league play Sunday against Cal State Northridge. For a full recap, see Tuesday’s Aggie.
MAX ROSENBLUM can be reached at email@example.com