UC Davis followed a seven-game winning streak by going 2-2 over their last four games.
As a result, they wanted to show improvement against Long Beach State on Thursday.
They responded by handily defeating the 49ers, 80-68.
“We haven’t been playing really good basketball for a while,” said coach Sandy Simpson. “So it’s kind of nice to break out and put it together for a little while. The first 28 minutes is the best we’ve played all year.”
The Aggies were on fire in the first half as they got out to a 22-2 lead in the first eight minutes. They would go on to lead by as many as 30 before taking a 48-19 lead into the break.
“We’re known as being a system program,” said forward Paige Mintun. “We came in thinking they knew how to play us so we threw them a left turn. Tonight we were like, ‘let’s just go out there and play.’ It was just so much fun to be able to do that.”
The Aggies attribute their early success to both offense and defense as they scored 26 points off of 18 Long Beach State turnovers.
“In one of the first possessions of the game, Paige came flying in from the wing defensively and set the tone for the game,” Simpson said. “We were getting our hands on a lot of passes early and I was impressed with how aggressive we were offensively. We haven’t played that well defensively for some time.”
The UC Davis onslaught continued at the onset of the second half as it extended its lead to 39 with 12:52 remaining.
Long Beach State then turned on the jets.
With the help of 18 second-half points from guard Karina Figueroa, the 49ers used a 35-6 run to shrivel the lead to 10 with 2:17 left.
“We were hesitant,” said forward Vicky Deely. “We had a really big lead so we thought we should slow it down and use the clock. We were playing so well that if we had kept up the intensity it would have been different in the second half.”
Despite the late 49er charge, the Aggies were able to hold on to win by 12.
Though his team let Long Beach State back in the game, Simpson believes that there is no cause for concern.
“The last 12 minutes didn’t bother me that much because we haven’t been in that situation before,” Simpson said. “We were halfway between trying to manage the clock and taking good shots. Since it was our first time in that situation, I’m confident that it’s a good lesson learned.”
Deely was one player who showed how far she’s come as she scored a career-high 15 points in just 15 minutes of play.
“She was ballin’,” Mintun said. “She just stepped up to shoot and stuck it. She’s also so strong down low that it’s hard for anybody to stop her.”
Deely, who was 8-for-8 from the field, attributes the breakout to intuition and experience.
“Coach told me to just go out there and use my instincts,” Deely said. “I’m still trying to learn, but as the season goes on, I’m figuring out how to use my instincts within our system.”
MARK LING can be reached at email@example.com.