Defending home court
The UC Davis women’s basketball team defended The Pavilion last Thursday night, holding on for a 57-55 win over Long Beach State. A game that seemed to be shaping up as an easy win for the Aggies turned into a nailbiter that took all 40 minutes to decide.
“These are games [that], earlier in the season, we weren’t finding a way to win,” said UC Davis head coach Jennifer Gross after the game. “It’s exciting that our players are finding a way to help us get the win. And that is how you build that confidence and that championship mentality.”
After winning the opening tip, Long Beach State scored the game’s opening points, followed by a quick response from the Aggies. The next several minutes of the game saw a lot of back and forth between both teams, along with a number of turnovers from a UC Davis side that could not find the answer to Long Beach State’s 2-3 zone.
With about four minutes left in the opening quarter, the Aggies broke through and began an 8-0 run to close out the period up 17-11. Long Beach junior guard and Woodland, Calif. native Shanaijah Davison scored seven of her team’s 11 points in the quarter, which only shot 5-18 from the field and 1-6 from three as a whole.
As the second quarter commenced, the ball movement on the UC Davis side led to plenty of open looks and a 5-0 start to the quarter. As was the case in the first quarter, the Beach got great looks themselves, but continued to miss them at the basket. The Aggies, seemingly in control for the time being, got sloppy with the basketball and turned it over three times during a 9-0 Long Beach run that closed the deficit to two. A three by the Beach’s freshman guard Kristyna Jeskeova tied the game up for the first time since the opening minutes.
After a timeout, the Aggies regained their footing and closed out the half on an 8-2 run, and went into the locker room with a 33-27 lead.
UC Davis’ leading scorer at the break was redshirt-sophomore forward Sage Stobbart, who had 10 points to go along with three rebounds. The Aggies shot an efficient 11-19 from the field in the first half, including 4-10 from three, and recorded 10 assists. Their one deficiency at the half was also a common theme for the rest of the game: turnovers. The Aggies committed 11 before halftime. On the Long Beach State side, Davison led the charge with 16, while only three other players on the Beach had points. The visitors as a whole shot 12-34 from the field.
“Tonight we got a little flustered with their pressure,” Stobbart explained. “We tried to prep for it during practice but nothing quite matches that athletic of a team”
The third quarter saw minimal offense as only five points were scored in the first five minutes, all by UC Davis. The Beach only made three field goals in the period for a total of six points, but the UC Davis offense was stagnant as well. The Aggies continued their turnover woes by giving the ball away eight more times in quarter, which kept them from building a more sizeable lead. Regardless, the Aggies entered the final frame up 42-33.
“A lot of us just thought we need to keep shooting,” Stobbart said about the rough offensive showing in the second half. “It definitely was difficult with all those turnovers to keep that attacking mindset.”
Another mini-run by Long Beach State to start the final quarter pulled the visitors within four, and it took UC Davis about three minutes before freshman guard Evanne Turner answered back with a tough floater on the left elbow. A corner three from redshirt-junior guard Mackenzie Trpcic with about six minutes remaining gave the Aggies their nine-point lead back. It seemed as if, in a game where offense was at a premium, that would be too much for Beach to overcome.
But with about five minutes remaining, Long Beach switched to a full-court press and instantly forced back-to-back Aggie turnovers. As the game approached 3:30 remaining, Long Beach hit a tough layup with the foul, knocked down the free throw and made it a 47-46 game.
The Aggies could not get out of their own way, as they turned it over again, leading to a Beach fastbreak and an easy lay-in that gave them their first lead since the first quarter.
With the Aggies reeling, Cierra Hall managed to make her first and only shot of the evening, a clutch three in the corner to give UC Davis the lead right back with two and a half minutes remaining. The Aggies were able to capitalize off of the Beach’s missed shots, and two made free throws by Trpcic made it a six-point game with 27 seconds left.
After a loose ball foul gave Long Beach State two free throws, the Aggies missed one of their own at the other end and allowed Long Beach sophomore guard Justina King to nail a three with 13 seconds to play.
The Beach were then able to force a jump-ball turnover and a chance to tie the game with 12 seconds left, down 57-55. The ball was in King’s hands once again, as she drove in the paint and put up a tough layup that ultimately fell short. Stobbart grabbed the rebound, and the Aggies survived.
Turner was the Aggies’ leading scorer with 11 to go along with five rebounds and was key in holding on to the victory down the stretch.
“Our mindset down the stretch was just attack them,” Turner said. “We know we have the ability to get out of those [situations]. We just kept pushing. We never had a doubt in our mind that we were going to win this game.”
Although Stobbart did not score in the second half, she was able to gather seven rebounds and notch a double-double. Three Aggies finished with five assists and collectively the team shot 47.5% from the field. But the Aggies’ 29 turnovers compared to Long Beach’s 10 allowed the visitors to stay in it all throughout.
“That was a bit uncharacteristic of us to be honest,” Gross said about the 29 turnovers. “Something we’ve done really well all season is taking care of the ball. I think they sped us up a bit and to their credit, that’s what they do. So to turn the ball over like we did and still find a way to win definitely says a lot about our group and our defense.”
A win’s a win, and this one moves the Aggies to 7-9 overall and 2-1 in conference, extending their home win streak against Big West opponents to 24. Their next matchup will be against the Gauchos on Thursday in Santa Barbara, a place the Aggies have not lost since the 2015-2016 season.
Written by: Omar Navarro — firstname.lastname@example.org