After a 56-52 loss at UC Riverside, a team picked by both the coaches and media to win the Big West Conference, head coach Sandy Simpson stressed a couple of things to his team before its matchup with Long Beach State on Saturday night.
“We need to do what we do well and have Long Beach adjust to us [while] trying to be consistent with our effort and energy,” Simpson said.
The Aggies did exactly that, edging out the 49ers 55-54 on the road to improve their league record to 2-1 while only suiting up eight players for the fourth time this season.
UC Davis played well in the first half, but got behind 26-20 with 1:25 remaining.
Senior Genevieve Costello then hit a pair of free throws to cut the lead to four. As time expired in the half, Costello banked in a three-point field goal, bringing UC Davis to within one point going into the break.
“She hit a runner three pointer to end the half,” Simpson said. “It was a relief that we were able to get back within striking distance after they made a run at the end of the half.”
The Aggies and the 49ers played close throughout the remainder of the game. Long Beach State got its biggest lead with 4:38 remaining when it held a 51-44 advantage.
Twenty-one seconds later, freshman Hana Asano hit a three-point bucket, sparking a 9-0 run that eventually gave the Aggies the lead with 28 seconds remaining.
However, two late fouls by the Aggies gave a one-point lead to the 49ers, leaving UC Davis with the ball in the final seconds.
“The last 13 seconds didn’t go the way we wanted them to,” Simpson said. “We had a good defensive series but a mental lapse allowed them to go the free throw line.
“After a missed free throw, we didn’t box out the shooter. They got a rebound off of a shot, went to the line again and hit them both.”
Down one point at that time with only nine seconds to play, freshman Kasey Riecks drove the ball to the hoop and drew a foul.
She hit both free throws to give the Aggies the narrow margin of victory.
“We came down the floor and Kasey realized that there was no time and we didn’t have a timeout,” Simpson said, “so she attacked the rim, split the double team and drew the foul. In that situation, freshmen usually do not want the ball. [She did] and then swished two free throws.”
Riecks finished with 15 points for the Aggies. Sophomore Paige Mintun added 17 points and freshman Lauren Juric rounded out the Aggies in double figures, finishing with 12.
One area in which Simpson felt the Aggies did not play well was on the boards, as they were outrebounded 38-31.
The Aggies did shoot well from three-point land, going 8-for-17 for a 47 percent clip.
Nonetheless, the Aggies are happy with the victory as they look toward the remaining Big West schedule.
However, they will have to do it without the services of junior Haylee Donaghe, who is out for the rest of the season due to a knee injury.
“It’s a huge loss on and off the court,” Simpson said. “She will still help us with her maturity and her advice. We can either feel sorry for ourselves or adjust and play out our schedule.”
UC Davis will continue conference play at home on Thursday against Cal State Fullerton. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.
MAX ROSENBLUM can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org