Haylee Donaghe is out for the season. Vicky Deely is redshirting. Lisa Peterson isn’t ready to come back yet.
The UC Davis women’s basketball team only has eight players, and that’s the way it’s going to be.
“We had a talk,” sophomore Paige Mintun said. “This is it. It’s no longer an excuse.“
Following a loss to Cal State Fullerton on Thursday, the Aggies (7-9, 3-2) found a solution to their short bench from within, as freshman Cortney French’s 3-point shooting paced UC Davis to victory against UC Irvine on Saturday.
“The lack of depth is a bit of a challenge,” coach Sandy Simpson said. “Right now, we’re looking for scoring. It was nice to have Cortney come in and provide that.“
Thursday – Cal State Fullerton 71, UC Davis 59
Genevieve Costello took the pass from Kasey Riecks. She stepped back, hit a three while being fouled and tacked on the free throw to bring the Aggies within four with 7:37 to play.
With that, the Pavilion came alive and momentum had swung UC Davis‘ way.
Then things changed.
After completing a 16-2 run that set up Costello’s four-point play, the Aggies‘ comeback effort stalled, as Cal State Fullerton (6-9, 3-2) scored 16 of the game’s final 24 points to claim a 71-59 win.
“We kind of died down at the end,” said Mintun, who scored 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting. “The game’s all about runs, and I guess that was the end of the run.“
Tied 16-16 at the 8:32 marker in the first half, Cal State Fullerton closed the half with an 18-6 sprint.
The Titans scored 17 of their 34 first-half points off 16 UC Davis turnovers to build a 12-point lead.
“You just can’t get away with that,” Simpson said. “When you pair that with the way we were shooting in the first half, that’s just a recipe for disaster.“
The Aggies converted just 29.6 percent of their attempts in the half.
UC Davis battled back in the second, going 15-for-30 to cut Cal State Fullerton’s lead to four on three occasions.
“I told the team tonight that when we were good we were really good, and when we were bad we were really bad,” Simpson said. “There wasn’t a lot of in between for us tonight.“
Kasey Riecks scored a team-high 17 points. Lauren Juric added 11 to give UC Davis three in double-figures.
Saturday – UC Davis 68, UC Irvine 56
Sandy Simpson called it unbelievable.
Paige Mintun said it’s almost ridiculous. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe Cortney French’s 3-point shooting during practice. Now, the results are doing the talking. French went 4-for-5 from deep en route to a career-high 14 points to lead UC Davis to a 68-56 win over UC Irvine (3-15, 0-5).
“She kills it in practice,” Simpson said. “Then in games, she’d be a little anxious, a little hyped up. Now, she seems to be settling in.
“The impressive thing tonight wasn’t the threes she made; it was the threes she didn’t take. She’d realize she was being closely guarded, put the ball on the floor and pass off. She’s making good decisions.“
French’s teammates didn’t have problems hitting from long range, either.
The Aggies struggled inside the arc, shooting just 29.0 percent on 2-pointers, but knocked down 45.8 percent of their attempts from deep.
“The nice thing about that is if you’re shooting the ball well from three, teams are going to be hesitant to zone you,” Simpson said. “They’re going to man us, do things to keep us away from the hoop, but if that’s the case, we’re going to get some kick outs for threes. If we can knock those down, we don’t care if you zone or man us.“
A 6-foot-2 post, Mintun also got into the 3-point act, going 2-for-3 from deep as she went for a team-high 17 points. She added a game-high five assists.
“All post players want to be guards. We all want to hit the 3-point shot,” Mintun joked. “I’ve been working on it. I’ve got confidence in that shot now, which is really nice.“
UC Davis returns to action Thursday at UC Santa Barbara. The Gauchos are 5-0 in Big West play, outscoring their opponents by an average of 10.6 points per game in league play.
When the Aggies hit the road, they’ll bring their new 3-point threat with them.
“It’s exciting. I hope this is just the beginning,” French said. “I want to help out the team all the time and get more wins like this.“
ADAM LOBERSTEIN can be reached at email@example.com.