Games: UC Davis at UC Santa Barabara; at Cal Poly
Records: Aggies, 11-3 (1-1); Gauchos 7-6 (1-0); Mustangs 5-7 (1-0)
Where: The Thunderdome – Santa Barbara, Calif.; Mott Gymnasium – San Luis Obispo, Calif.
When: Thursday at 7 pm; Saturday at 4 pm
Who to watch: Sophomore Blair Shinoda has been an efficient scorer off the bench for the Aggies.
The Santa Ana, Calif. native is shooting 52 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range this season.
Shinoda has scored ten or more points in two of the Aggies’ last three games and will be poised to continue scoring on the road trip.
Did you know? Senior Heidi Heintz is just eight points away from becoming the 15th Aggie to score 1,000 points in a career.
The senior out of Spokane, Wash. has averaged over ten points per game in her two seasons since transferring to the Aggies from University of San Francisco.
Preview: Heintz may want to stay out of the middle as she goes for her milestone on Thursday.
Gaucho center Mekia Valentine has been a force on the defensive end this season, averaging over four blocks per game, good for fourth in the nation.
However, UC Davis has more than just Valentine to deal with when they face the Gauchos.
UC Santa Barbara has four players averaging double figures in scoring.
This could make things tough for the Aggies on the defensive end.
“It’s really difficult to guard a team with such a balanced offense,” coach Sandy Simpson said. “You can’t key on any one player, so you have to make each player work as hard as they can to get open looks, and hopefully by the end of the game that has an effect on them.”
Following their game in Santa Barbara, the Aggies will travel up the coast to the site of their worst conference defeat of last season – a 21-point loss at Cal Poly.
This year, however, the Mustangs are missing a key piece.
Last year’s Big West Player of the Year Kristina Santiago has missed nearly the entire season due to injury.
Simpson believes the other Mustangs have to put in more effort without Santiago in the lineup.
“When we played them we had to pay so much attention to Santiago that it made things easier for their other players,” he said. “This year they have to work a little harder.”
Regardless of the injury, however, the Aggies know that getting two wins over strong teams on this road trip could give a big boost to their season.
“You get road wins on the top teams in the conference and it gives you a huge leg up,” Simpson said. “It gives you an automatic advantage.”
– Trevor Cramer