In a game devoted to promoting breast cancer awareness, the UC Davis women’s basketball program found itself in a tight tussle with the Pacific Tigers. In front of easily the biggest crowd for the Aggies this year, UC Davis did not disappoint, putting away Pacific by a 59-51 score.
The two teams entered the game tied for third place in the Big West Conference with identical 3-2 conference records. Add to that the rivalry UC Davis has developed with Pacific over the years, and the game had a high enough level of intensity to keep all 1,427 fans on their feet.
“There’s definitely a little bit of extra buzz in the air when Pacific comes,” head coach Jennifer Gross said.
The Aggies came out all guns blazing, shooting lights out and slamming the door on defense to build up an 18-6 lead seven minutes into the game.
The first half was all UC Davis, and the Aggies were looking more red-hot than the shades of pink they sported on their socks. They shot 11-24 from the field and held Pacific to 28.6 shooting percentage. UC Davis would walk off the court at halftime with a 27-20 lead.
The Tigers came charging back out of the locker room and put together a 6-2 run to close the gap to 29-26. Junior Hannah Stephens stopped the bleeding when she knocked down a jumper with 14:45 remaining.
The game of tug-of-war reached a 53-51 score with 37 seconds remaining when Pacific scored a long three-pointer that bounced off the backboard and somehow fell in the net.
The Aggies took the ball back and missed an opportunity to extend their lead, and the Tigers had a chance to grab their first lead since they went up 4-3 two minutes into the game.
With the game in their hands, and the chance to seize a comeback victory, Pacific missed a wide open three-pointer that would have all but put the Aggies away with nine seconds to go.
At this point, the game took a strange series of events. Junior Blair Shinoda was fouled with four seconds remaining and went to the line for a one and one opportunity. She drained both free throws to put the Aggies up 55-51, essentially out of reach for the Tigers.
Yet, the scoring would not stop there. Pacific coach Lynne Roberts got two straight technical fouls and extended the game. Shinoda drained the four ensuing free-throws to put up six points within two seconds on the game clock, and gave the Aggies a 59-51 lead.
The win move the Aggies to 12-6 on the season, 4-2 in Big West play, good for third in the conference.
Shinoda’s perfect 9-9 from the charity stripe helped her score a career high 18 points on the game. Stephens contributed 13 points and four steals for the Aggies.
“It was just a great team win and we really focused on ourselves this week,” Shinoda said. “Everyone just came out and played hard.”
Yet, this is not the area that Gross is most proud of, citing the defense that trapped the Tigers so many times and prevented them from scoring.
“To hold them to 51 points, I’m very pleased,” Gross said.
The UC Davis defense shut down the Pacific offense, which has averaged over 70 points per game this season and has scored over 90 points three times already.
“Our defense got it done for us today without a doubt,” Gross said. “We had stretches where we struggled to score a bit but we just kept coming up with big stops.”
MATTHEW YUEN can be reached at email@example.com.