It was a huge two game swing for the Aggies.
UC Davis faced a pair of tough opponents as it looked to set the tone for the remainder of its season.
In the end, the Aggies ended up back where they started.
With a hard fought win over UC Santa Barbara and a loss to a red-hot Cal Poly squad, UC Davis moved to 2-2 in Big West Conference play and 12-4 overall this season.
Jan 6 – UC Davis 63, UC Santa Barbara 55
The Aggies’ match-up with the Gauchos was a battle from the start.
UCSB started the game with a hot hand, shooting 50 percent in the first half. UC Davis found itself clinging to a two-point lead as the game went to the break.
“[The Gauchos] shot the ball really well early on,” said coach Sandy Simpson. “We had to do everything we could to keep ourselves in the game.”
After the intermission, the game turned in the Aggies’ favor.
UC Davis began the second half with a 21-8 run, and gave them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
The Aggies’ success was based largely on causing takeaways.
“Our game was fueled by our defense,” Simpson said. “We forced some turnovers, which led to scoring. Forcing turnovers created opportunities for us and swung the game in our favor.”
UC Davis finished the contest +15 in turnover ratio.
On the offensive end, the Aggies were able to find success at the charity stripe.
UC Davis shot 14 more free throws than their opponent and made nine more than UCSB.
Simpson believes the Aggies got the free throws by being attack minded.
“We got opportunities from the line because we were the aggressor especially in the second half,” he said, “We got them back on their heels.”
UC Davis finished with four players in double figures, including senior Heidi Heintz who scored her 1,000th career point in the game.
“It really speaks to her consistency,” Simpson said. “To reach a milestone like that you have to be ready to play all four years.”
Jan 8 – Cal Poly 74, UC Davis 65
The Aggies were looking to extend their winning streak to three games as they traveled to San Luis Obispo.
Unfortunately for UC Davis, Mustang Rachel Clancy stood in their way.
The Cal Poly senior scored a career high 31 points, as the Mustangs handed the Aggies their second straight loss in Mott Gymnasium.
Clancy shot 10-17 from the field and 7-13 from 3-point range.
“She had an incredible shooting night,” Simpson said. “She put them on her back and carried them.”
The hot shooting extended beyond Clancy, however.
Cal Poly shot 54 percent from the field for the game and 60 percent in the second half.
To Simpson the Mustang’s scoring prowess was part hot shooting, part open looks.
“Sometimes you run into a team that’s just having a great shooting night,” he said. “That said, our coverage wasn’t what it could have been. We should have played more match-up zone to shut down their shooters. That’s on me.”
The loss moved the Aggies to 2-2 in the Big West, a position they did not want to be in.
“We don’t feel good [about being 2-2],” said Simpson. “We’ve got to bear down and get some games back. If we don’t get ourselves in gear we’re going to find ourselves looking up at a lot of teams. That said, I think we’ll get things going.”
UC Davis will come home to take on Long Beach State Thursday. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.
TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org