The UC Davis women’s basketball program has half the season under its belt and entered this week with a couple of important road games. The Aggies are 7-1 at the Pavilion this year, but have had a tough time on the road — going just 6-6 away from UC Davis.
Head coach Jennifer Gross, however, focuses more on her team’s performance than the game’s location.
“We came into this week feeling really confident and excited about where our team is, we’re improving every single day,” Gross said. “We know what it’s going to take to be successful and when we’re not bringing those things to the court, we’re going to struggle.”
With a win over UC Santa Barabara and a loss to Cal Poly this week, UC Davis moved to 13-7 overall and 5-3 in the Big West Conference, good for a three-way tie at second place.
Thursday — UC Davis 51, UC Santa Barbara 47
UC Davis brought a lot of fire into the game against UC Santa Barbara on Thursday, and it turned out to be more than the Gauchos could handle.
“We’re a team that feeds off of each other so our energy was really great at the start,” Gross said.
The Aggies put up 11 points to start the game before UCSB even scored. It took six minutes for the Gauchos to find the basket. UC Davis would never look back from there, holding the lead the entire contest.
By halftime, UC Davis had built up a 33-15 score. The Gauchos were shooting just 31 percent from the field, no match for the Aggies’ 57 percent, which included 6-11 from three point range.
Yet, the game still wasn’t over. The Gauchos came creeping back into the game with about eight minutes to play. The Aggies saw a 46-31 lead shrink to three points with 21 seconds remaining.
Unfortunately for the Gauchos, this was as close as they would get. Senior Samantha Meggison was fouled and went to the line and drained two clutch free throws to make the game 50-45 with 16 seconds to go. She was once again fouled with seven seconds to go and made one of her free-throws to close the game for the Aggies.
Meggison ended with 15 points. Junior Hannah Stephens led the Aggies, with 16 points, shooting 6-8 overall and a 4-5 from beyond the arc.
Saturday — UC Davis 65, Cal Poly 87
The victory over UCSB extended the UC Davis win-streak to four, their longest since starting the season 5-0, but it would end there.
The Aggies were ousted 87-65 in a game quite different from the win over the Gauchos.
“The confidence we showed at the UCSB game was missing and we were playing a little passive,” Gross said. “We weren’t being very assertive and … we weren’t getting it done defensively.”
UC Davis fell behind early and simply could not make up the 52-25 deficit they allowed in the first half. They put up 40 points in the second frame thanks to 57 percent shooting, but it was too little too late.
The Aggies had one of their higher scoring games, with three players scoring double digit points, but they could not shut down the Mustang offense.
Stephens once again put up big numbers, with 17 points, backed up by junior Cortney French’s 16.
“She’s been so reliable both offensively and defensively, she brings a great level of energy and focus to the game,” Gross said of Stephens. “She’s been so consistent throughout the year, and is one of the hardest working players on the team.”
UC Davis’ achilles heel came in crashing the glass, as it was outrebounded 43-23, which resulted in 23 second chance points for Cal Poly.
“We knew they were going to come out and play hard because we have developed a nice rivalry with them,” Gross said. “For us, it’s not so much about the opponent — it’s about doing the things that we do night in and night out.”
MATTHEW YUEN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.