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Thursday, September 29, 2022

UC Riverside outlasts UC Davis women’s basketball down the stretch

The Aggies fall at home against the Highlanders for the first time in six years

By MARLON ROLON — sports@theaggie.org

The Aggies lived by the three and died by the three falling 59-61 at home against UC Riverside in a thrilling Big West showdown. 

The UC Davis women’s basketball team started the game cold, missing their first five shot attempts and going scoreless for the first three minutes to start the game. They also missed five straight threes from beyond the arc.

 During the opening quarter, the Aggies looked to be aggressive from long range getting wide open looks from multiple players. The Highlanders played up tempo basketball, forcing the Aggie defense to play at a much faster pace than they’re used to.  

“We were getting really good looks in the first quarter,” Jennifer Gross, the UC Davis head coach, said. “I felt like we’re lacking a little bit of energy to start.” 

UC Davis’ reigning defensive player of the year Sage Stobbart missed her first eight shot attempts in the opening quarter. Stobbart went 0-5 from the field and 0-3 from three point range; however, she made her presence known on defense with a block and two rebounds. 

UC Riverside third-year guard Jada Holland was outstanding during the first quarter. She controlled the tempo and took advantage of the screens off the pick and roll, scoring 11 points in the quarter. Holland shot 4-5 from the field and an outstanding 3-3 from the three. 

Riverside went into the second quarter extending their lead 24-12. However, UC Davis looked very much like the team that won five straight conference championships, going on a 15-0 run and scoring 17 points in the quarter with eight of those points coming off the bench. The Aggie defense played one of its better quarters of the season allowing five points. The Highlanders shot 2-15 from the field and 1-6 from the three-point line. 

First-year Mazatlan Harris, the San Diego native who sports the #33 for the Aggies, was pivotal in jump starting the offense. Harris immediately scored a long jumper followed by UC Riverside’s second-year guard Ryanne Walters answering back with a three pointer. A few plays later, Harris swished a three from 30 feet sending the home crowd into a frenzy. 

Second-year guard Evanne Turner and star forward Cierra Hall contributed to the comeback, combining for nine points in the second quarter. They both made plays at the right time as Hall stole the ball and assisted Turner on a fast break three pointer to put up UC Davis 25-24. 

At that point in the game, the crowd was on their feet chanting “Defense!” The momentum swung in favor of the home team cultivating two defensive stops. With 10 seconds left in the second quarter, Hall had the ball in her hands quickly passed to Turner outside the key, Turner passed it back to Hall who was guarded by Holland. Hall accepted the challenge putting a move on Holland making her fall back with a stepback jumper scoring at the buzzer to end the half. The Aggies were in full control taking the lead 27-24.

“We just talked about how in the second quarter we took control and that’s what we needed to do during the second half,” Gross said. “I thought we had the right mentality coming out of halftime where we took a nice lead.”

Stobbart had a fantastic third quarter, posting up against defenders in the paint. She was efficient with her shot selection going 4-5 from the field and 1-1 from the arc, good enough for nine points. 

UC Davis led by as many as eight in the third quarter until UC Riverside’s Keilanei Cooper, a fourth-year guard, made her presence felt, scoring nine points. Holland contributed with six points and three assists, helping the Highlanders even the score at 47-47.

Stobbart’s dominance followed into the fourth quarter, scoring five points in 16 seconds off of two attempts within the first two minutes to open the quarter. That was the last time the Aggies fed Stobbart the ball. 

 “We were just kind of looking at different matchups,” Gross said. “We went to her a little bit. We saw [Cierra Hall] had a good match up so we were trying to post her up a little bit too, our offense is about picking up offensive advantages and so that’s what we were looking at.”

The home team spent the majority of the quarter in command, leading by as much as six. Finally, with 5:31 left in regulation the Highlanders took the lead, 56-55. 

Down the stretch, Turner bulldozed her way into the paint and scored an easy basket to cut the deficit to one. 

With 1:57 remaining, Hall, with her experience, looked to be the closer taking over ball duties scoring a fade away jumper inside the paint to put the defending champions up by one.

“She’s a tremendous player, she’s a threat from really everywhere on the floor,” Gross said of Hall. “She gets us going outside and inside and she’s a great play maker too. She’s a fun person to coach and she’s a tough match up.”

The Aggies led 59-58 with 1:26 left on the clock when Turner passed the ball out from the post to Hall who was outside the key 30 feet away from the basket. Hall took advantage of the one on one matchup against UC Riversides’ guard Mele Finau, dribbling past her down the lane as she mishandled the ball in the paint. Hall managed to recover the ball passing it to Turner with five seconds left on the shot clock. Turner with a hand on her face shot the three pointer as the clock expired and missed with the ball bouncing on the edge of the rim. 

Forward Daphne Gnago grabbed the rebound and immediately passed to Holland who dribbled past the Aggie logo passing the rock to Keilanei Cooper. Cooper drove into the paint with Hall on the defensive end; however, Cooper pump faked drawing in Stobbart and Kayla Konrad. Holland was left wide open at the top of the key proving to be lethal from beyond the arc, splashing a three pointer that seemed to be in the air for what seemed like an eternity. The University Union Credit Center was silenced as the Highlanders pulled away 61-59, earning their first road win in Davis since 2016.

Stobbart finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and two steals. While Turner finished with 16 and Hall finished with 13 points and eight assists. 

“Give Riverside credit, they came back and started making plays, and we just fell a little bit short at the end,” Gross said. 

After the game UC Davis immediately boarded a plane en route to Hawaii. The Aggies lost to Hawaii 50-57 on Feb. 3. Their record stands at 9-9, 3-5 in conference play. UC Davis will host UC San Diego on Feb. 10 at 6 p.m.

Written by: Marlon Rolon — sports@theaggie.org

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