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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Aggies look to stay hot in Hawaii

Teams: UC Davis at Hawai’i

Records: Aggies, 8-9 (3-1); Rainbow Wahine, 8-7 (2-1)

Where: Stan Sheriff Center — Honolulu, Hawai’i

When: Thursday, Jan. 23 at 9 p.m.

Whom to watch?

Molly Gruebel single-handedly saved the UC Davis women’s basketball team in the overtime thriller against Cal State Fullerton on Jan. 18. The sophomore drew a foul and hit two clutch free throws to send the game to overtime, where the Aggies pulled out the win.

Greubel will look to continue her fine play against Hawai’i on Jan. 23. While she averages a shade under six points per game, her ball handling and defense has allowed for her to start 13 of the Aggies’ 17 games. Look for Gruebel, who leads the team in free-throw percentage (83 percent), to be extra aggressive and get to the line often against the Rainbow Wahine.

Preview:

Following a most unlikely win against Cal State Fullerton on Jan. 18 to complete an undefeated SoCal roadtrip, the UC Davis women’s basketball team will look to ride that momentum into the tropics this week, taking on Hawai’i in Honolulu, Hawaii on Jan. 23.

Down two points on the road, with 0.5 seconds left in regulation and without the ball, the Aggies pulled off a miracle. Sophomore Molly Greubel drew a charge on Cal State Fullerton’s inbounds play, then sank two clutch free throws to force overtime. In the extra period, junior Sydnee Fipps scored the game-winning basket with 25 seconds left, giving the Aggies the 69-67 win, their third consecutive.

“We kept going back-and-forth on the play call,” Greubel said. “[Assistant coach] Matt Klemin and the staff drew up an awesome play and, we weren’t depending on getting the call, but the coaches just said ‘Take it. Take the charge.’ That’s what we did, and we got the call.”

Head coach Jennifer Gross was thoroughly impressed with Greubel for the play of the game.

“We knew that the only way that we could really try to win it was to try and draw a foul,” coach Gross said. “We know Molly is pretty sneaky, so she came up behind the defender on the ball and set a screen and was able to get the call. More important, she stepped to the line and knocked them both down.”

Greubel finished with eight points, six rebounds and four assists. The Aggies (8-9, 3-1) were paced with 12 points from junior Kelsey Harris and 10 from sophomore Celia Marfone. Sophomore Alyson Doherty scored 13 of her 15 points in the second half and added a game-high eight rebounds. Fipps, the Aggies’ leading scorer (17.5 points per game), also put up 15 in the winning effort.

The Aggies were monsters on the glass, out-rebounding Fullerton 44-25.

Coach Gross was proud of her team’s resilience against the Titans.

“You always hear about these amazing endings to basketball games and we always tell our teams to just keep fighting, keep clawing, find a way to win, and this was a perfect example,” coach Gross said. “You just never know what can happen and some crazy thing can go your way like it did for us tonight.”

Up next, the Aggies — now tied for first place in the Big West — face an upstart Hawai’i squad coming off consecutive conference wins over UC Riverside and Cal State Northridge by scores of 74-61 and 54-44, respectively.

The Rainbow Wahine (8-7, 2-1) are currently tied for second in the Big West.

UC Davis will have its hands full with Hawaii’s senior forward Kamilah Jackson, a 2012-13 first-team All-Big West performer. Jackson comes in scoring a team-leading 16.3 points per game and averaging a stellar 10.4 rebounds per game.

Junior guard Ashleigh Karaitiana, an All-Big West Honorable mention a season ago, is also a scoring and rebounding threat, averaging 10.3 points per game and 5.1 rebounds per game for Hawai’i.

The Aggies will hope to expand their lead at the top of the Big West standings with a key victory over the surging Rainbow Wahine.

— Scott Dresser

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