For 40 game minutes on Friday, basketball artwork was made in the UC Davis Pavilion. The ball whirled around the court, perfect cuts were made and open shooters were found and sunk their shots. Unfortunately for UC Davis, the Aggies found themselves right in the middle of this perfect basketball storm.
The Aggies women’s basketball team took on No. 1 UConn in front of a record crowd of 4,712 fans. The UConn women, who proved themselves to be the NCAA women’s basketball version of the San Antonio Spurs, made quick work of UC Davis despite a strong fight.
With an electric crowd and amped up Aggie team, the game seemed to start off far closer than it actually was. Within four and a half minutes, UC Davis was down 8-19 despite two early threes from senior guard Kelsey Harris. Senior UConn guard Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had already begun her record-breaking night, matching Harris with two straight threes. All-in-all, UConn hit its first four shots, all three-pointers.
The margin continued to grow for UConn, who finally figured out the Aggies’ offense with nine minutes left in the first half. From that point on, UC Davis did not score another point until freshman guard Rachel Nagel hit a three almost seven minutes into the second half. In that killer scoring drought, the Huskies scored 39 points. The last 13 minutes of the game played relatively even as UConn backups entered the game. From 13:17 left until the end of the game, the score was 20-28 in favor of the Huskies.
Even though the margin of defeat was large, head coach Jennifer Gross was extremely pleased with the game that the Aggies played. “Despite the score, our goal tonight was to come out and compete for 40 minutes — not look at the scoreboard and not worry about the margin, [but] just play as hard as we can play. I was really proud of our kids; I thought we did that.”
UConn senior and reigning National Player of the Year Breanna Stewart echoed Gross’s sentiments. “UC Davis really battled with us throughout the whole game. You could tell their coach was trying to keep their energy up throughout the entire game,” she said.
Mosqueda-Lewis also felt that the team played well considering the circumstances. “I think UC Davis did a really good job, regardless of what the score was, of trying to score and play tough defense,” Mosqueda-Lewis added.
Entering the game, coach Gross was forced to pick her poison against a team that features a dominant frontcourt and great shooters. She chose to stick mostly to a 3-2 zone defense, which limited the looks inside for Stewart but allowed the Husky shooters a lot of open space to thrive. That environment is what allowed Stewart to rack up seven assists and Mosqueda-Lewis to break a school record with 10 made threes. Overall, UConn hit 18 out of 28 threes en-route to shooting 56.7 percent from the field on the night.
Offensively, UC Davis struggled to break through against a tough defense and coughed the ball up 19 times. Often times, they were perplexed by a tough full-court press and trapping at half-court. As a team, the Aggies only made 30 percent of their shots and were led by Harris, who scored 12. The Aggies also struggled to rebound throughout the game, allowing their opponent to grab 14 offensive boards.
After the game, the Aggies felt optimistic and excited about what they could take away from their challenging game.
“We knew this was going to be a tough game. They are a really good team, so we are just going to use the momentum that we did play really well. I thought that we came out hard, so [it’ll] just [be about] using that,” Harris stated.
Senior forward Sydnee Fipps agreed, acknowledging how the game will help them with moving forward.
“I think now we are just going to move forward. I think we came out of the game with so much confidence and we were playing so well. We need to start every game like that and just carry that energy. I think we did some things well moving forward. We are going to be good this year and I am excited,” Fipps said.
The Aggies will take a quick trip across the causeway to face Sacramento State before returning to play Saint Mary’s at home on Saturday.