It’s one thing to beat the Big West Conference’s second place team.
It’s another to top the league’s undefeated first place squad in the same weekend.
The UC Davis women’s basketball team did both of those things this weekend with wins over its top competition in conference – Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara.
With the wins, the Aggies sent a message that will be heard throughout the Big West.
“This weekend was a big statement for us,” said junior Kasey Riecks. “It was really good for our confidence, and we will carry that confidence through the second half of the league [season].”
Jan 6 – UC Davis 81, Cal Poly 61
The Aggies’ second matchup with the Mustangs was a complete reversal of the team’s earlier contest.
UC Davis controlled the game from start to finish, and played one of their best games of the season en route to an 81-61 rout over the top squad in the Big West Conference.
“There was something different tonight,” said sophomore Vicky Deely. “There was a lot of energy and we entered the game with a sense of urgency.”
The Aggies were on fire right from the start.
UC Davis took the floor with a great deal of energy as it jumped out to a 17-point halftime lead.
The Aggies shot 70 percent in the first frame, creating great shooting opportunities on layups and from three.
“We had a couple of really nice passes early that led to layups,” said coach Simpson, “and they gave us the confidence early in the game.”
Paige Mintun led four Aggies in double figures with 16 points. The senior from Valley Center, Calif. also led the team with six rebounds and three blocks.
On the defensive side of the ball the Aggies paid special attention to Mustang Rachel Clancy, who scored 31 points in the team’s earlier matchup.
UC Davis held the Limerick, Ireland native scoreless in the first half, and kept her out of rhythm for the remainder of the game.
“We really focused on her as a main threat,” Deely said. “We were aggressive on defense and we changed up our looks and it caused her to struggle.
“Beating Cal Poly planted a little doubt in its minds for the next time we play them,” Deely said. “They know they’re really going to have to work when they play us.”
Jan 8 – UC Davis 74, UC Santa Barbara 70
The Aggies’ Saturday matchup with the Gauchos was a battle to the finish.
The teams remained close for the entire contest, but the Aggies were able to secure the game in the final minutes and take a four point victory.
Riecks led UC Davis with 18 points, followed by Mintun with 13.
Also in double figures was junior Lauren Juric who shot 4-4 and 3-3 from long range on her way to 11 points.
“[Juric] hit some really timely baskets,” Simpson said. “She stepped up and gave us a real shot in the arm.”
The Aggies had a strong second half, and they were able to push the lead to 12 with just 1:17 remaining.
Still, the Gauchos battled back. Guard Emily Johnson scored 13 of her 24 points in the final 1:10 and UCSB cut the lead to three before the Aggies extended it to four and ended the game with a crucial stop.
With the wins this week the Aggies moved into sole possession of second place in the Big West with a conference record of 7-3. UC Davis sits two games behind conference leaders Cal Poly.
The Aggies, ranked No. 14 in the most recent CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll, will finish its three-game home stand on Wednesday when it hosts Pacific at 7 p.m. They’ll play at Long Beach State next Saturday.
TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at email@example.com