Women’s basketball makes history with 7-0 opener

ANH-TRAM BUI / AGGIE

Causeway Classic win over Hornets full of new records

The women’s basketball team added to its historic opening season winning streak in this year’s Causeway Classic against Sacramento State. With the Hornets ready to sting, the Aggies had to be quick on their feet to win the game 79-72. The Causeway Classic rivalry is now tied between the two teams at 29-29.

At the end of the first quarter, senior forward Pele Gianotti had yet to miss a shot, shooting 3-3 from the field and 1-1 three-point shots along with junior forward Megan Bertsch, who went 12-17 in field goals for the night.

Sacramento State was eager to get the ball, applying constant defense on Aggie possession and proving to be a quick-footed team that kept the Aggies constantly in motion on the court. This aggressive pace allowed the Hornets to make opportune shots and keep the game within one or two points throughout the second quarter.

“Sometimes you kind of forget when you don’t play against Sac State for a while, what kind of pressure they bring and what kind of game it is going to be,” Bertsch said.

That pressure was felt in every position, as junior guard Kourtney Eaton continued to keep the ball moving on the court.

“We know that’s the type of style they play — they run they press, they shoot a lot of threes pretty quick and I think we struggled a little bit in transition defense right away, but we turned it around,” Eaton said. “It was kind of the first test we faced all year, in the fourth quarter like that and it’s good for us, it’s a learning experience. I thought we knocked down shots when we needed to, we got a lot of stops when we needed to, it’s kind of a confidence builder knowing we can play in that sort of game and when it gets down to the wire, we have the strength necessary to come back, find a way to win.”

The Hornets fell short at the end of the first half as Bertsch lead the team with 14 points with 4-4 from the free throw line and her final field goal of the half locking in the Aggies’ smallest halftime lead of the year of 31-27 against the Hornets.

“When [the offense] breaks down you just drive, kick and keep the possession going and keep the defense scrambling and it’s been really successful for us,” Bertsch said.

Head Coach Jennifer Gross knew the rivalry game packed emotion, but credited her team for willing to work a little harder for better play.

“I think that is starting to define our team: the way that we share the ball, willing to make the extra pass,” Gross said. “That’s what I love about our team. It’s a selfless group and tonight showed that. Before the game we talked about passing up a good shot for a great shot and we know that when we get great shots we can make those shots.”

At the start of the second half the Aggies reclaimed their lead by as much as 15 points, but the Hornets kept the pressure on to narrow the Aggie lead to only two points at the end of the third quarter.

With two minutes left in the third quarter, Bertsch had already secured a spot on UC Davis’ all-time scoring list and by the end of the game accomplished a total of 1,128 points for 13th position pushing the previous holder to 14th.

An intense fourth quarter kept the game close. The game paused for a brief moment as senior guard Dani Nafekh got back on her feet to a tied game of 60-60 before adding a trey to retake the lead. Nafekh, who also set records against Sacramento State tying for eighth in the all-time list for assists with a total of seven in the game, 688 career along with Eaton, did not hold back as the game came to a close.

“It’s my job to get the ball to the hot hand or in the post and Morgan [Bertsch] was scoring so much tonight,” Eaton said. “It’s not an assist if it doesn’t get in so just credit to my teammates. They are amazing shooters and Morgan [Bertsch] is an amazing post and they made shots, I just make the passes.”

Gross also echoed Bertsch’s well-rounded game.

“It’s probably going in [when Bertsch has the ball],” Gross said. “She has a knack for putting the ball in the basket. She’s worked extremely hard on her game and it’s paying off and she is just a very tough match up. She can score outside, she can score inside, and I thought down the stretch she hit a couple big shots to kind of give us a little breathing room.”

Bertsch remained consistent and confident as she went on to set a new career high of 29 points, one point short of being the first Aggie since 2005 to score 30 points. Nafekh and Bertsch continued to be powerhouses for the Aggies for the remainder of the game, sending the Hornets back over the causeway with a loss.  

The Aggies continue to be the only undefeated team in the Big West. But Bertsch expects more than an undefeated reputation.

“I think we kind of knew coming into the season that it’s going to be a special team and this is the team that could do amazing things. So its awesome and it’s amazing and it’s something that should be celebrated but I think we should just all know that we are not done yet,” Bertsch said. “That [the 7-0 opener] is not going to be the thing that everyone remembers us for. There’s going to be a lot of greatness coming out of this team and I think that we just gotta keep the ball rolling.”

The team’s 7-0 opening season success surpasses the UC Davis Division I history made in 1994. The team’s homestand will end after the Dec. 7 doubleheader game at 5 p.m. in the Pavilion against San Francisco. The team will then head to Moraga, Calif. to take on the 5-2 St. Mary’s Gaels.

 

Written by: Veronica Vargo — sports@theaggie.org