When the final seconds ticked off the clock, the UC Davis women’s basketball program trailed on the scoreboard, but by no means did it ever accept defeat.
The Aggies were knocked out of the Big West Conference Tournament by Pacific in a hard-fought, first-round defeat. The loss can be attributed to several factors, but lack of effort is not one of them.
“[Pacific] is a good basketball team and we both wanted this really badly; we brought every ounce of effort to the floor and tonight it went their way,” said head coach Jennifer Gross. “But I couldn’t be more proud of our team.”
UC Davis got its first point when senior Kasey Riecks knocked down a three just over two minutes into the game. They would not score again until junior Cortney French came into the game and hit one of her own from behind the arc three minutes later.
The drought that crippled the Aggies came in the ensuing 12 minutes, in which UC Davis failed to score. Riecks made a free throw to bring the score to 17-7 in favor of the Tigers with seven minutes remaining in the first half.
“Our defense really got it done, but we struggled to get our flow offensively and we turned the ball over a little too much,” Gross said. “We weren’t knocking down our shots early on and that created the gap for us.”
The Aggies would not get much more, and went into the half trailing 26-13. UC Davis simply could not find the basket from anywhere on the court in the first half, shooting 17 percent from the field, just 4-23.
However, the Aggies came out of the break looking determined to erase the daunting 13-point gap between them and the Tigers.
By putting together a nice 6-2 run in the first couple of minutes, UC Davis quickly reduced the deficit back to single digits, but the Tigers pounced back. With 11 minutes remaining, Pacific pulled ahead by a 16-point margin with a 44-28 lead.
There was no doubt in anybody’s mind, however, that UC Davis could come back, and it was not a matter of if, but when. Thus, it came as no surprise when the Aggies came surging back, sparked by senior Hana Asano’s three-pointer right around the 10-minute mark.
Asano was all over the floor in the second half, doing everything she could to keep UC Davis alive. She had all of her 10 points and both her steals in the second half.
One of French’s trio of threes in the game came with about eight minutes left, as the Aggies were on the brink of turning the tables. The Tigers responded with a deep three of their own that miraculously banked off the backboard and fell in, deflating the momentum UC Davis had built up.
“I thought we were just about to turn the corner, and then [they] banked that three and that was a tough one,” Gross said. “We could have used a couple more breaks and we just didn’t get them, but we sure never gave up.”
Unfortunately for the Aggies, their late game push turned out to be too little, too late. They chipped the Tigers’ lead down to six points, but Pacific held on by a thread and kept the advantage for the last couple of minutes.
“That hole we got into early on was hard to get out of,” Gross said. “We sure fought our hardest and we had times where I thought we were going to get there.”
UC Davis had a much better second half, shooting 42 percent from the field and outscoring Pacific 38-33 in those 20 minutes. In the end, it was their cold start that was the difference.
What makes this loss so difficult to swallow is not that the Aggies had beaten Pacific twice this year, but that it may be the last game for seniors Asano, Riecks, Samantha Meggison and Lauren Juric.
It would be a terrible mistake, though, to measure the success of these student-athletes by this one loss.
“Everything that’s happened these past four years goes through your mind at this moment,” Riecks said. “It’s incredible to have been a part of this amazing program.”
The Aggies may get a chance for redemption, as they could still be selected for the WNIT Tournament, which will be announced Monday evening. UC Davis is currently ranked 128th in the RPI.