The streak was bound to end sometime.
The UC Davis women’s basketball program finally recorded its first loss six games into the season. The Aggies were taken down 81-78 by the Santa Clara Broncos, falling to 5-1 on the season.
“We try really hard not to focus on the winning and losing, but on really improving,” Head Coach Jennifer Gross said. “There are many areas we improved, but we still have a lot of places that we have to work on.”
UC Davis built a 36-32 lead over the Broncos by the end of the first half. Senior Kasey Riecks drained a three at the buzzer to give the Aggies a four-point advantage going into the break. Ten of Riecks’ 15 points came in the first half.
Yet, the momentum generated by Riecks’ three did not carry into the second half, as the Broncos came out firing on all cylinders. They quickly gained the 43-42 advantage five minutes into the second frame, snatching their first lead since the five-minute mark in the first period.
From there the teams would battle back and forth for the lead, but Santa Clara would eventually pull ahead for good at the 10-minute mark when it got a steal and scored on the ensuing fast break to make the score 60-59.
This lead would grow to 12 points, but the Aggies never relented and fought back to bring the game within reach. They clawed back to bring the game to within three, but the Broncos stayed just out of reach, matching each UC Davis basket with one of their own.
“Everyone played so hard. I was pleased from contributions across the board, but defensively we gave up too many points,” Gross said. “We scored enough points to win — we just needed some more stops, but they hit some tough shots and shot really well.”
UC Davis chipped away at the lead but could not get rid of the deficit. The Broncos closed the game with a three-point victory, handing the Aggies their first loss of the season –– a heartbreaker on several fronts.
Still, Gross let it be known that a 5-1 start is nothing to panic about, nor is it a reason to get comfortable.
“When you’re winning, certain things you need to improve get minimized, whereas if you lose, those things stare at you more,” Gross said. “Our focus has been defense and rebounding, and we aren’t where we need to be in March, but we’re improving everyday.”
In its last game before winter break, UC Davis will travel to No. 3 Stanford today for a rematch of last year’s NCAA first-round match-up. Not intimidated in the least, Gross and the team look forward to the opportunity.
“We know what to expect, the talent they have, and we feel like we can step up to the challenge,” Gross said. “We won’t make excuses, we have to battle and stick to our game plan and if we do, I feel confident that we can compete. We have nothing to lose.”
MATTHEW YUEN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.