With much anticipation leading up to this season, there is pressure on the UC Davis women’s basketball program to play at the same standards as last year.
The Aggies more than held their own this week, as they ground out two tough road victories to open the season. With a thrilling last-second victory against Pac-12 University of Washington on Wednesday and a back-and-forth battle with Seattle University, UC Davis is in a good position to pick up where it left off at the end of last season.
The wins mark the first two of the season for the Aggies, as well as the first with Jennifer Gross as head coach.
“It feels great to start off the season this way,” Gross said. “We feel confident about these wins, but we know we have to keep working hard.”
Friday – UC Davis 69, University of Washington 68
UC Davis completed a comeback in the closing seconds of the game to steal a victory from University of Washington at the Huskies’ home court.
The Aggies’ season debut showcased much of what Gross has predicted will be the face of the team this year.
“If you look at our stats, it’s hard to pick any one player that did everything for us,” Gross said.
Indeed, with a balanced attack from everywhere on the court, UC Davis found itself up 37-35 at the end of the first half.
Yet, this lead vanished and the Huskies turned it into a 13-point deficit with only 9:37 remaining.
The Aggies chipped away at the lead until they found themselves ahead 67-65 with 31 seconds to play. When the Huskies converted a three-point play to gain the lead, UC Davis had eight seconds on the clock to pull out a victory lest their 23-8 point run over the past nine minutes went to waste.
The heroine would be Blair Shinoda, whose layup put the Aggies up for good. The junior ended with eight points on the night, but of the Aggies’ final seven points, Shinoda contributed six of her own.
Senior Hana Asano and junior Cortney French paced UC Davis with 12 points apiece in the victory, but the win was a product of the entire Aggies’ lineup.
“We really had to unite and come together as a group because we had to fight back,” Gross said. “We were extremely poised.”
Sunday – UC Davis 66, Seattle University 62
In what turned out to be an up-and-down game, UC Davis built a 15-point lead by halftime. As time went by, this lead would dwindle but the Aggies held on for their second win of the season.
The Redhawks brought the score back within two points on several occasions, only to have the Aggies pull away in the tug-of-war matchup.
Senior Samantha Meggison scored 18 points and nabbed seven steals, both of which are career highs.
“The whole team really executed down the stretch and it was a good learning experience,” Gross said. “We need to learn how to play in all different situations, whether we’re up 15 or down a couple, and we’re getting a lot of practice with that.”
What had the potential to be a full-blown collapse fortunately never turned into one, and UC Davis slipped by for its second victory of the season.
“I’m really excited about how our team performed, both were team wins,” Gross said. “We had a lot of people step up and contribute.”
The two victories in Seattle combine to make a good start of the 2011-12 campaign for UC Davis, and the Aggies will return to the Pavilion on Wednesday for their home opener.
You can reach MATTHEW YUEN at firstname.lastname@example.org.