Aggies overwhelm Hawaii with Big West title on the horizon
The UC Davis women’s basketball team made 10 straight victories with a 72-46 win over visiting Hawaii on Saturday afternoon at the Pavilion.
Leading up to Saturday, the Aggies felt it was essential to avenge their only loss in Big West play, a frustrating five-point defeat to the Rainbow Wahine in Honolulu in mid January.
“We weren’t going to lose to them twice,” said senior guard Karley Eaton. “We had a really good week of prep just getting better and continuing to improve. It was really about focusing on us.”
Looking back, that disappointing night on the island marked a pivotal point in the season and served as a wake-up call for players to reevaluate some aspects of their game.
“That game in Hawaii was a turning point for us,” said Head Coach Jennifer Gross. “We really thought there were some things in that game we could’ve done differently to pull out the win. At that point, our team really committed to making sure our details and habits were stronger. We’ve been working really hard ever since then to build those and I think we were able to showcase that today.”
The Aggies wasted no time getting off to a hot start on Saturday, streaking out to a 17-5 lead after just six and a half minutes of play. They rattled off a 9-0 run in less than a minute and quickly created some separation from their opponent, using lights-out shooting and an aggressive man-to-man defensive scheme.
Similar to many other contests this season, UC Davis leaned on its scorching hot shooting from beyond the arc, hitting 61.9 percent of its three-point attempts. The team has now shot over 40 percent from three-point range in 10 of its 24 games this season.
After just one quarter, UC Davis already held a 13-point advantage, converting 6-of-7 three-point attempts and being disruptive on defense by forcing five turnovers.
Karley Eaton led the way with a trio of early three-pointers, in addition to other three-pointers from fellow senior guard Kourtney Eaton and junior forward Nina Bessolo.
The Eaton twins went back and forth hitting three-point shots throughout the afternoon, combining to score 28 points. Karley Eaton was a perfect 5-5 from beyond from the arc and enjoyed poking some fun at her sister, who missed just once from that range.
“I told [Kourtney] she was bringing our shooting percentage down a bit by missing one,” Karley joked after the game. “We are each other’s biggest fans, but we always have a little competitive game going on.”
The game hit a bit of a lull in the second quarter when the Aggies hit a scoring drought of nearly six minutes and turned the ball over a few times. The team’s defense, however, put the clamps on Hawaii to retain the large lead.
After the Aggies took a 17-point lead into the halftime break, Hawaii started to gain some momentum in the third quarter with a 12-3 run, but back-to-back three pointers by the Eaton twins got the home team back on track.
“Sometimes that’s going to happen and you need to just find a way to get a bucket,” Gross said. “We talk about letting our defense fuel our offense, and getting a stop and pushing in transition. You have to weather those spells because sometimes that’s going to happen.”
UC Davis is quickly running away with the Big West Conference regular season title and has a chance to clinch its third straight crown in the next week or two. Nonetheless, the team would like to see improvement in certain areas of its game, in advance of the Big West tournament in March.
“We’ve been really focusing on our rebounding offensively and defensively, and also our communication on defense,” Karley said. “It’s hard to think about the tournament now because we still have four games. We just want to keep getting better and when we get to the tournament, we want to be playing our best.”
The Aggies have hit their stride on the court at the right time and seem to have came together as a group, much to the admiration of Gross and her coaching staff.
“We’re at the point now where every player is really embracing their role,” Gross said. “I just appreciate what each and every person brings to this team and I love the fact that everyone is buying in to whatever they can do to help.”
UC Davis will return to action on with a two-game road trip in Southern California against Long Beach State and UC Irvine starting Thursday. The Aggies wrap up their regular season schedule with a pair of home games versus Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara.
Written by: Brendan Ogburn — firstname.lastname@example.org