Aggies finish off regular season with 14th-straight win, look forward to Big West tournament
On senior night at the Pavilion, the UC Davis Women’s basketball team finished the regular season with a blowout win over UC Santa Barbara on Saturday afternoon.
Entering the final game, the Aggies were on a 13 game winning streak and sported a 14-1 conference record. With UC Davis already having clinched the Big West Conference last Saturday night, the game had no effect on the standings.
The Aggies wasted no time on Saturday and were off and running to start the game. A pair of three-pointers by senior guards Kourtney and Karly Eaton and a layup by senior forward Morgan Bertsch got the Aggies off to an 8-0 start and lead to a quick UCSB timeout.
UC Davis’ momentum continued as it jumped out to a 12-0 lead after the timeout, holding UCSB scoreless until the Gauchos converted a layup with 6:36 remaining in the first quarter. The score at the end of the first quarter was 22-7, with the Aggies shooting 4-8 from the three and 7-15 from the field. Their defense held the Gauchos to 2-18 shooting from the field as well as 0-8 from three. This was the seventh time in conference play this season that the Aggies have held an opponent to 10 points or less in the first quarter.
“Our game plan today was focused on our defense and our rebounding,” said Head Coach Jennifer Gross “Defensively we were trying to keep their quick guards in front of us and guard a little better one-on-one so it wouldn’t require much help.”
The second quarter was more of the same for the Aggies as they continued to play intense on the defensive end. Collectively, UCSB shot 1-12 from beyond the arc and 5-29 overall with five turnovers. Kourtney Eaton tied for leading scorer at halftime with eight points, and added in four assists and two rebounds. Bertsch also added in eight points and six rebounds, as the Aggies led 43-18 at the half.
“I thought our team was very dialed in and real urgent with our defense,” Gross said. “Even when we brought subs into the game, I thought everybody was really committed to playing great defense. That’s what happens when all five players on the court are really in tune and playing hard.”
In the third quarter, more of the same occurred as the Aggies controlled the tempo of the game and knocked down five three-pointers in the period — with three coming from senior Karley Eaton — to lead 67-34 after three quarters.
With 2:34 remaining in the game, Gross subbed out Bertsch and the Eaton twins, as they received an ovation from the crowd in what was their last game at the Pavilion. They will go down as some of the most decorated players in program history.
“I cannot imagine a better group of individuals,” Gross said about the departing seniors. “These three players are obviously tremendous basketball players but that’s just one part of it. They’re just the coolest people, great teammates, they’re selfless, they’re fun to be around, they work hard. They are amazing young women and I think they have a perfect balance of work ethic but also enjoying the process and being great teammates.”
The clock expired and the Aggies won by a score of 80-44, winning their 14th straight game and closing out what was a historic regular season. Bertsch finished the game leading all scorers with 16 points and 10 rebounds. While she only shot 3-11 from the field, she was a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line.
Karley Eaton finished the game with 15 points and four assists, with all her points coming from the three-point line, where she was a perfect 5-5. Kourtney Eaton finished the game with 14 points and five assists of her own. Sophomore forward Cierra Hall also added seven points and came down with seven rebounds. Overall, the Aggies shot 13-27 from three, held the Gauchos to 23 percent shooting from the field and were +18 in rebounding.
Now that the Aggies have finished off their regular season, they will prepare for their first Big West tournament game this week with hopes of getting an NCAA tournament bid. With a final conference record of 15-1, the Aggies won the regular season conference title and enter the tournament as the number one seed, meaning that the team has already secured a spot in the semifinal game.
Last season, the Aggies were also the number one seed, but were upset by Cal State Northridge in the championship game. UC Davis will need to sweep their next two games if it hopes to go the Big Dance for the first time since 2011 — the program’s only appearance.
“This week is just about fine tuning for us,” Gross said. “We spent the last couple of months building habits and focusing on the details and we always tell the team, your habits are going to show up whether they are good or bad. This week is also about going down to Anaheim feeling loose and feeling confident as we’ve had a lot of success against the teams in our conference, and we just need to take it one game at a time and go down there, have some fun, play hard, and we’ll be ready to do that.”
The Aggies’ will play in the Big West tournament semifinal game on Friday, March 15 at 12 p.m. against the lowest-seeded team remaining. The game will be at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. and will be broadcasted on ESPN3.
Written by: Omar Navarro— firstname.lastname@example.org