When a team begins to struggle, one player must step up and take charge.
Meet Heidi Heintz.
After winning seven straight games, the Aggies began to stumble as they went 2-2 during their last four contests.
During the Aggies’ recent struggles, Heintz has been a solid presence, registering two double-doubles over the last three games and willing her team to victory over UC Irvine on Saturday.
“This is a rough stretch of the conference season,” Heintz said. “We need to be on the rise, getting better every practice and every game so we’re peaking at the end of conference and heading into the tournament.”
Before UC Davis upended UC Irvine, it fell to Pacific on the road.
Thursday – Pacific 74, UC Davis 58
This was supposed to be an easy win.
The Aggies had won eight of their previous nine games and would be playing a team that was tied for last in the Big West Conference with a record of 1-9.
Instead of rolling over, Pacific shocked UC Davis (16-8, 8-3) by shooting 15-of-22 from long distance on its way to an impressive 74-58 victory.
The Aggies believe they simply weren’t at their best while the Tigers were.
“Pacific just ran us around,” said coach Sandy Simpson. “We were slow on everything. The big difference was their three-point shooting. Whether we were contesting the shots or not, they knocked them down.”
The game marked the third straight time the Aggies faced a team that was lights-out from beyond the arc. During the streak the Aggies went just 1-2 as their opponents combined to shoot an unprecedented 58 percent from long distance.
The Aggies understand that there isn’t much that can be done when a team is that hot.
“I’ll tell you what,” Simpson said. “Stick a kid in a gym with no defense and that’s a hard number to reach. I just hope we don’t run into that again.”
Heintz continued her hot streak leading the Aggies with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Kasey Riecks and Hana Asano chipped in 10 points apiece.
Saturday – UC Davis 74, UC Irvine 71
After being upset by Pacific, UC Davis had no choice but to respond with a win over UC Irvine.
If not for Heintz, the Aggies may have fallen short of their goal.
Despite trailing for most of the game, Heintz took control late and willed her team to a 74-71 victory over the visiting Anteaters.
UC Davis believes claiming a victory after a loss is pivotal.
“It’s hard coming off that loss,” Heintz said. “We talked about playing with no regrets. We don’t want to be outworked or out hustled in a game. It’s huge to win after losing to Pacific.”
While the Aggies ultimately came out on top, things did not look good for them in the first half.
The Anteaters’ intensity was evident as they would lead by as much as nine before taking a 37-34 lead into the half.
“In the first half we came out a little flat,” Heintz said. “We had five of our bench players in there halfway through the first half to give us a little spark defensively.”
The second half was hard fought as the outcome was mostly in doubt until the very end.
That was until Heintz scored a three-point play with 15 seconds remaining to give the Aggies a one-point advantage, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“Without her making those plays at the end,” Simpson said, “it would have been difficult to win.”
MARK LING can be reached at email@example.com.