Clash of top Big West teams results in win for surging Aggies
To kick off the final month of the regular season before the beginning of the Big West Conference tournament, the UC Davis women’s basketball team took on the CSU Northridge Matadors in a rematch from last year’s Big West tournament championship game.
UC Davis entered the contest on a five game winning streak, largely in part to junior forward Nina Bessolo’s sharp shooting over the stretch, connecting on 54 percent of her three point attempts. In its previous matchup against Northridge in January, UC Davis came out on top, 60-49. Saturday’s game was no different as the Aggies cruised to a 70-54 victory and captured their 13th win in their last 14 games.
The Aggies started off strong behind the hot hand of senior guard Kourtney Eaton and the leadership of senior center Morgan Bertsch. The Aggies’ star forward had her work cut out for her on Saturday afternoon, as her center counterpart from CSUN, senior Channon Fluker, is an MVP-caliber player in her own right and looked to push her team to the top of the Big West Standings.
Through the first five minutes of play, Betsch controlled the paint and the pace of the game, drawing two fouls, forcing Fluker to the bench and showcasing an elegant skyhook. As the Matadors began to crowd the paint in attempts to shut down Bertsch, the Aggie offense took notice and quickly transitioned to its three-point game. Eaton drilled all five of her three point shots in the first half, which helped to put UC Davis up 47-25 at the break.
The third quarter mainly consisted of many whistles and stoppings, and the flow of the game came to a noticeable halt. Eaton and sophomore forward Cierra Hall both picked up their fourth fouls in the third, partly contributing to a CSUN surge. At the end of the quarter, the Matadors had turned a 23-point deficit into only nine points, putting a little more pressure on the Aggies as the game entered the final frame.
The fourth quarter ended up being rather uneventful, as Bertsch and the Aggies responded by thwarting any CSUN chance at a comeback. Between scoring a putback layup, reverse layup and converting a three-point play, Bertsch’s last quarter helped her amass a game-high of 20 points to go along with her six rebounds and three assists. Bertsch is now only 29 points away from being number five on the all time Big West scoring list. Eaton also did her part on the offensive side of the floor, adding in 19 points of her own on six of seven shots in her 30 minutes of playing time. She also recorded a game-high four assists.
“I was feeling good and I was in the zone,” Eaton said. “Sometimes you just have that feeling, and my teammates were finding me for wide open shots, and thankfully I was able to hit them.”
Eaton also stressed the importance of the team continuing to start upcoming games with the same defensive urgency and energy that it has displayed during its win streak.
Saturday’s game was the eighth of the year where the Aggies have scored 70 or more points. They were undefeated in those games.
“There might be some games where we don’t score 70,” Eaton said. “And we’re going to need to have our defense step up and have a championship mentality. So even when we aren’t hitting our shots, we can still win games.”
Head Coach Jennifer Gross also had a championship mentality on her mind, as she noted how Saturday’s contest felt much like a championship game and how her team played up to the challenge.
“This is the kind of effort it’s going to take for the rest of the year if we want to make it to the Big West Championship,” Gross said. “I was really pleased with how we started the game, how we bounced back from adversity in the third quarter and that we finished strong. We have a ton we need to work on from this game, but I thought we did some things well. It’s nice to get a win and also be able to improve.”
Now sitting at 7-1 atop the conference, the Aggies will head out on the road for a two-game trip down the coast to take on UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly. Their next home game will be Feb. 14 against UC Riverside.
Written by: AJ Seymour –– email@example.com