When No. 2 ranked Stanford – who has defeated opponents by an average of 30.5 points per game this season – entered the Pavilion on Sunday, the major question for UC Davis was what the game plan was going to be.
“For the coaching staff, it’s kind of like a chess match strategically,” said coach Sandy Simpson. “What can we throw at them to keep them a little off balance?”
UC Davis threw all it had at a Stanford roster comprised of seven players taller than any Aggie. Unfortunately, the Aggies were outmatched by the nationally ranked Cardinal, falling by a score of 76-51.
“Of course today it was like a chess match but they were playing with the big chess at-the-park pieces,” Simpson said, “and we were playing with the little pieces from the family den closet.”
The game was highly contested at the outset until a 17-2 Cardinal run opened the Stanford lead to 21-9.
UC Davis would work the lead back down to just nine at the seven-minute mark in the first period of play, but Stanford finished the half strong, entering the break with a 42-25 advantage.
The Aggies wouldn’t get much closer than that as the Cardinal depth proved too much for UC Davis down the stretch.
Stanford was piloted by preseason All-American Jane Appel who scored 18 points and grabbed nine boards. Kayla Pedersen pitched in with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Even with Appel and the rest of the Stanford bigs, the Aggies were only outscored in the paint by a 32-24 margin. UC Davis came away with eight offensive rebounds despite sending only two players to the glass.
“We actually rebounded better sending two than when we expect four to go,” said Simpson. “We were talking on the bench during the game about maybe making something like that a permanent philosophy.”
Despite the final outcome of the contest, the Aggies put up more of a fight against the Cardinal than any team has so far this season, and in doing so gained valuable experience in moving forward.
“One of the most important things we can take away from this game is if we can play with them,” said senior Haylee Donaghe. “We did for most of the game. We can play with anyone.
“When we get into our conference play it’s just going to make us that much stronger. We have things that we need to work on and we have things we could’ve done better today, but I think this is going to help us the rest of the way.”
Donaghe led all Aggies with 11 points, five rebounds and two steals.
Simpson displayed the same enthusiasm as Donaghe, saying that he was pleased with his team’s performance against such a solid team.
“There were a few runs, especially in the second half, where we did go flat,” Simpson said, “but for the most part we stuck to what we do best and executed. I couldn’t ask any more from my players. I thought they played hard and competed.”
JOHN S. HELLER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.