UC Davis needed to beat Cal State Northridge to clinch the No. 5 seed in this week’s Big West Conference Tournament.
The Aggies did exactly that, using great work on the boards and two clutch free throws to narrowly beat Northridge at the Matadome on Wednesday night, 53-50.
“Overall, rebounding was strong,” said coach Sandy Simpson. “We had 14 offensive rebounds on 26 missed shots which means that we were rebounding more than half of our misses. It helped keep us in a game on a night that we didn’t shoot very well.“
UC Davis outrebounded the Matadors 40-27 overall and 14-12 on the offensive glass, but did commit 29 turnovers.
The Aggies‘ struggled in the first half as they converted 42 percent of their shots, going only 2-for-11 from three-point range and held a narrow four-point advantage at halftime.
They soon turned it around, converting at a 48 percent clip from the floor in the second half to stave off the Matadors and collect their seventh conference victory.
“We only had 23 points in the first half,” Simpson said, “and we didn’t shoot the ball well from three.“
The shooting woes allowed Northridge to get to within one point of UC Davis after sophomore Analee Viena-Lota converted a jumper in the paint with 52 seconds left in the game.
With the Aggies up 51-50 at that point, freshman Lauren Juric grabbed an offensive rebound off of a free throw miss, drew a foul and hit both shots from the line to extend the lead to three.
“With 19 seconds to go and to get fouled was a key play,” Simpson said.
The Matadors did have one final opportunity with two seconds remaining to put the game into overtime, but a three-point attempt from Northridge senior Ashley Blake went begging.
“They shot a three,” Simpson said. “The ball was batted around on the boards and went out to the best three-point shooter, but she just missed.“
UC Davis did make up for a relatively poor shooting night in other areas.
“I was pleased with our intensity,” Simpson said. “A road win is big and we have been decent on the road.“
The Aggies also did an exceptional job defensively on point guard Tonicia Tademy, holding the senior scoreless and causing her to commit nine of her team’s 23 turnovers.
Mintun had a game-high 18 points while grabbing five rebounds. Juric collected a game-high 10 rebounds.
The Aggies will see the same Matadors team in the first round of the Big West Conference Tournament on Wednesday.
MAX ROSENBLUM can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.