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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

UC Davis women’s basketball stumbles down the stretch

The Aggies wrapped up their season at home on Senior Night. Unfortunately, the women’s basketball team couldn’t send seniors Blair Shinoda and Cortney French off with a win in their final home game of their career.

The Aggies managed to finish the season 12-17 overall and 7-11 in conference, good enough for the seventh seed in the playoffs. They head down to the Bren Events Center in Irvine, Calif. this week for the first round of playoffs.

The crowd at the Pavilion was filled with friends, family and fans alike who wished to cheer on Shinoda and French to victory. However, this did not happen, as Pacific managed to close out a tightly contested 59-54 game.

The first-place Tigers eventually managed to gain control with about six minutes left in the game. The Aggies played hard, but simply could not find the offensive spark to win the game. UC Davis — normally fairly reliable from beyond the arc — struggled to make anything, shooting a tough 4-19 from three-point land.

Pacific started out sluggish and sloppy, unable to capitalize on some good looks at the basket early on. This allowed UC Davis to jump to a 16-8 lead with 12:14 to go in the first half. However, from there the Tigers unleashed a full-court press which hounded the Aggies all night. Pacific’s pressure forced many turnovers and took a lot of time off the clock all game long.

That being said, the Aggies managed to enter into halftime tied at 32-32. The main reason that UC Davis kept close to Pacific was the superb play of freshman guard Molly Greubel. Greubel had a career night in her first meeting with the Tigers back in early January. This game was no different, as she scored seven of her 16 points in the first half. Greubel also displayed awareness and good hands as she racked up four first-half rebounds.

“She’s a competitor and Pacific is the number-one team in our conference,” said head coach Jennifer Gross. “She is tenacious, and she does not back down from anyone.”

Despite Greubel’s gritty game, UC Davis could not keep up with the Tigers, in large part due to the Aggies’ shooting struggles. French, the Aggies’ three-point sniper, could not get a bucket to drop, as she was 0-5 from beyond the arc. Sophomore Sydnee Fipps also struggled from beyond the arc, going 1-4.

While the Aggies’ shooting was off, they still did the little things to keep the game close, especially the seniors. Shinoda’s leadership was evident in the small surge UC Davis had in the second half. Her amazing court vision and passing skills led to some easy layups for the Aggies. French’s hustle and determination was evident in the way she rebounded and dove for loose balls.

“What she did tonight is what she did her whole career,” Gross said. “She is absolutely the glue that holds this team together.”

As for French, the Aggies’ three-point specialist, Gross had only positive things to say.

“With Cortney, we said it before the game. If you could pick out every characteristic that goes with Aggie pride, that is who she is,” Gross said. “It is always about helping other people and what she can do for her teammates.”

However in the end, the Aggies’ shooting slump was just too much for them to overcome. The Tigers eventually widened their lead to six points, from a jumper by senior Brianna Johnson, with only 6:14 left in the game. From there UC Davis just could not find the offensive spark to bring them back into the game.

The Aggies worked hard, and the seniors showcased their work ethic and determination in front of the home crowd for the last time in their careers. It unfortunately ended in a loss, but the Aggies do not have time to dwell on it. They head to Irvine to play Cal State Northridge in the first round of conference playoffs on Tuesday.

— Kenneth Ling

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