The Aggies have dealt with much hardship this season.
Three players have gone down with season-ending injuries, various others have missed games and the team has suffered six losses by four points or less.
UC Davis played its final two home games looking to forget the past with hopes of heading into the Big West Conference Tournament on a high note.
It was not able to do so against Cal State Bakersfield, but the Aggies were able to pull off a convincing win over Pacific, sending lone senior on the squad, Genevieve Costello, off with a farewell present on Senior Night.
Wednesday – Cal State Bakersfield 80, UC Davis 71
For the Aggies, the matchup with the Roadrunners came down to one fundamental aspect of the game: offensive rebounds.
Cal State Bakersfield outrebounded UC Davis on the offensive glass 18-7 and 41-29 overall en route to an 80-71 win.
“Every time they shot it and we got the defensive board, we went down and we scored,” said sophomore Paige Mintun. “But when they got the offensive board, they threw it back and got a three. We weren’t ending our defensive sessions correctly.“
“Tonight we weren’t out-physicaled on the boards,” said coach Sandy Simpson. “We were out-quicked. It is frustrating to have them take a tough shot and then [allow them to] work it around again.“
The Aggies and the Roadrunners played even through the first half of play, as UC Davis found itself within five points at the break.
But a 22-4 run by Cal State Bakersfield in the first 5:14 of the second period of play sparked by 10 points from junior Katie Williams put the Aggies at a deficit that they could not make up.
“The key was the first three minutes of the second half,” Simpson said. “They just took control and put us in a hole after we had battled back by halftime and put ourselves within striking distance.“
Williams finished the contest with a game-high 30 points on 12-for-24 shooting and 12 rebounds.
Costello and Mintun led the Aggies with 15 points apiece. The pair also combined for 11 assists.
Saturday – UC Davis 58, Pacific 39
The story of the game before tipoff was Costello playing her final game at the Pavilion.
By the final buzzer, the story had a happy ending, as a dominating UC Davis defensive effort sent Costello out a winner.
“It means everything,” Costello said. “[My career] has been a long journey with many memories along the way.“
Despite being outrebounded, UC Davis got the boards when they needed to and played tough defense to defeat Pacific for the fourth consecutive time at the Pavilion.
“I thought we were pretty consistent and disciplined with the defensive game plan,” Simpson said. “We didn’t rebound very well in the early part of either half, but the latter part of each half we did a good job on the boards.“
The win was the 205th of Simpson’s career, trying him with former Aggies coach Jorja Hoehn for the most in program history.
The Aggies started off the game hot and took a 30-18 lead into halftime.
The second half brought much of the same, as a stifling defense limited Pacific to 39 points. Tigers‘ leading scorer Amber Simmons was held scoreless on 0-for-4 shooting.
“They missed some shots that they would normally make which helped us out,“ Simpson said. “Defensively, we weren’t getting caught out of position too often. I think our communication and our hustle tonight was really excellent. The kids were at quite a pitch for Genevieve’s last home game.“
Costello finished with eight points and three assists in a game-high 36 minutes.
Freshman Kasey Riecks had a game-high 16 points for UC Davis and added five rebounds.
As the Aggies head into their final regular season game before the conference tournament, they are where they want to be defensively but have room to improve as well.
“Offensively, we hit some big shots but the turnovers were too careless,” Simpson said. “We are shooting the ball well so we have to give ourselves opportunities. That and the rebounding is the last piece.“
MAX ROSENBLUM can be reached at email@example.com.