Teams: UC Davis vs. UC Riverside; TBD
Records: Aggies 23-8 (11-6); Highlanders 19-11 (12-5); TBD
Where: Honda Center – Anaheim, Calif.
When: Friday at approximately 2:30 p.m.; TBD
Who to watch: Big players are expected to step up in big games and there is no bigger player for UC Davis than senior Paige Mintun.
The Valley Center, Calif. native leads the Aggies in points, rebounds and blocks, and is second on the team in steals.
Did you know? This year has been a record-breaking season for the Aggies. UC Davis has converted 230 three-pointers so far, already surpassing their previous high of 206, which was set last season.
Preview: The Aggies are flying high as they make their way to Anaheim for the semi-finals of the Big West Conference Tournament.
UC Davis opened the tournament at home with a 72-45 blowout over UC Irvine.
The contest started close, but UC Davis went on a 12-0 run midway through the first half, and never looked back.
Mintun led the Aggies, scoring 14 points on 7-of-14 shooting. She added six rebounds and four blocks.
Mintun benefited from solid guard play, as both junior Hana Asano and sophomore Hannah Stephens were able to get her the ball near the basket.
“They were throwing some great passes,” Mintun said. “When we saw their zone defense we wanted to make some over the top passes to get the ball inside.”
Sophomore Vicky Deely equaled Mintun, scoring 14 while senior Heidi Heintz added 10.
Junior Lauren Juric was a force on the glass, pulling down 11 rebounds – eight on the offensive end.
The most important aspect of the contest, however, may have been the Aggies’ defense.
UC Davis held the Anteaters to under 27 percent shooting and forced 25 turnovers.
“Tonight we really got after them [defensively] right from the start,” said coach Sandy Simpson. “I really liked our energy.”
Stephens led the Aggies with six steals.
The win over the Anteaters marked the final home game for Simpson, as well as Mintun and Heintz.
With the victory, UC Davis advanced to face UC Riverside in the semi-finals.
Though the Highlanders are the third seed entering the tournament, the Aggies have believed all along that their road through the conference tournament would run through UC Riverside.
“We’ve known from the beginning we would have to go through UC Riverside,” Mintun said. “It’s going to be a good game.”
UC Davis has struggled in its matches with the Highlanders over the past two years. The Aggies have lost their past four contests against UC Riverside, including two defeats this season.
Still, UC Davis feels confident that making some strategic changes could be the difference this time around.
“We’ve been working on some things for a couple weeks in anticipation of having to face [the Highlanders] again,” Simpson said. “They’re the team we have to make the biggest adjustment for. We have a couple of tricks in the bag.”
Should the Aggies defeat the Highlanders, they will face the winner of the match between Pacific and Cal Poly for the Big West Title.
– Trevor Cramer