Teams: UC Davis vs. UC Santa Barbara; Cal Poly
Records: Aggies, 8-6 (1-1); Gauchos, 4-9 (1-0); Mustangs, 8-4 (1-0)
Where: The Pavilion
When: Today at 7 p.m.; Saturday at 7 p.m.
Who to watch: With Paige Mintun sidelined four games with a foot injury, somebody had to step up.
That somebody was Heidi Heintz.
The junior from Spokane, Wash., named Big West Conference Player of the Week on Dec. 7, leads the team in minutes per game (28.6) and ranks second in points (11.2) and rebounds (4.4).
“Heidi has been a bright spot for us,” said coach Sandy Simpson. “She’s a team player who wants to help set-up her teammates. She’s a real asset on the court.”
Did you know? Out of 332 Division I schools, UC Davis ranks highest in steals per game (37th) and lowest in rebound margin per game (315th).
UCSB junior Mekia Valentine, meanwhile, ranks third in the country with 4.6 blocks per game.
Preview: UCSB was picked by the media to finish first in the Big West.
Where did UC Davis rank?
Second, making tonight’s clash a good early-season barometer of how both teams may fare in league play this season.
“This is a really good rivalry,” Simpson said. “As far as conference goes, this is as big as it gets.”
The Aggies, who snapped a three-game skid with an 82-56 romp over Cal State Northridge on Monday, know that defeating the Gauchos will be no small task.
“UC Santa Barbara is the standard for the league,” Simpson said. “They represented our conference in the tournament last year, so they’ve earned it. This will be our third game in five days, whereas they will come in with five days of rest so they’ll be locked and loaded.”
Despite the apparent scheduling disadvantage, the Aggies have looked forward to this part of the season all year.
“Conference is what we’ve been working toward all preseason,” said guard Haylee Donaghe. “We had a pretty good preseason. We had some games we would have liked to pull out, but overall the team has done such a great job preparing for conference.”
The Aggies have recently welcomed back two integral parts of their team in Mintun, who will be starting tonight for the first time in six games, and Ashley Curry. The pair returns to the court to replenish the depth that has been such a vital asset for UC Davis this season.
“Everybody has been stepping up differently,” Donaghe said. “That’s one of the best things about our team.”
The Aggies will then face Cal Poly at the Pavilion on Saturday night. The Mustangs, who play at Pacific tonight, are currently on a three-game winning streak.