Friday, July 25, 2014

Aggie women are on their way up

November 29, 2010 |

Enterprise sports editor


Taking it to the next level is an often used sports cliché, and many times its meaning can be somewhat nebulous.


But for a UC Davis women\’s basketball squad that won the Big West regular season championship last season, has played in the Women\’s National Invitational Tournament in two of the past four years and has already posted a couple of wins over teams from major conferences early this season, the next level is clear. The Aggies want to start dancing with the big girls at the NCAA Tournament.


UCD\’s recent success, which has seen improved play in nearly every phase of the game in the past few seasons, has highlighted the two main weakness in its game; rebounding and handling fullcourt pressure.


Make no mistake, the Aggies (5-1) are not looking so hard at these two areas because they need to salvage their season. After recent wins over Washington State of the Pac-10, Pepperdine of the WCC and Sunday\’s come-from-behind victory at The Pavilion over the SEC\’s South Carolina, UCD knows that with a few minor improvements, that next level is within reach.


“To be an elite team, we have to do two things, handle pressure and get better on the boards,” UCD head coach Sandy Simpson believes. “We talked about it and worked on it in practice (Monday) and to their credit the players are buying in. They know what we need to do. I\’m not expecting us to outrebound every opponent but I do expect us to minimize the damage.”


In the Aggies\’ only loss, which came on the road against No. 13 UCLA, they could not handle the Bruins fullcourt defense.


Against the Gamecocks, who regularly due battle with teams like Tennessee in the SEC, the Aggies struggled mightily on the backboards in the first half and found themselves down by 16 early in the second half. But UCD did not let its poor rebounding cost them that time.


The Aggies turned it up on offense and defense — outscoring South Carolina 37-12 the rest of the way — to pull out a 61-52 victory. This after UCD was dominated 24-9 on the boards in the first half, and watched as the Gamecocks got offensive rebounds on six of their 12 missed shots before the break.


“Credit South Carolina, they really controlled the first half … we were not getting second chances because they were dominating the boards,” Simpson said one day after his team trailed 30-21 at halftime and 40-28 with 16:40 to play. “We were probably fortunate to be down only nine at halftime and then we started slowly in the second half.”


After a timeout, the Aggies scored 14 straight points by making 6-of-7 shots to get back into the game.


“We hit our stride a little bit,” Simpson said. “We thought we could come back by not trying to do it all at once. Offensively, we had scored 28 points in about 24 minutes and then were able to hit a couple of threes and go on to score 37 points after that. The nice thing was it wasn\’t just one person.”


While the shots were going in — including 3-pointers by Blair Shinoda, Paige Mintun and Kasey Riecks during the run — Simpson said his squad also did a good job against fullcourt pressure. He especially credited the play of backup guards Hannah Stephens and Shinoda.


“They were doing such a great job, I couldn\’t take them off the court,” Simpson said. “Blair has really been playing well the last couple of games.”


If UCD can keep getting better against the press, the Aggies\’ chances to become an elite team will depend on their rebounding. With a talented roster that features decent size, one of the reasons UCD has trouble on the boards is its aggressive zone defense that often puts players out of position to rebound. But Simpson likes what that defense gives the Aggies and wants to find a way to have the best of both worlds:


“We still have to find an answer for it because we are not going to stop playing the defense. We just have to find a way to neutralize our opponents on the boards.”


The next opponent UCD will be competing against for rebounds is Saint Mary\’s, which will be at The Pavilion on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. contest.


The Gaels (3-3) are coming off of a big win over Wisconsin and, like the Aggies, have defeated Washington State this season. St. Mary\’s defeated the Cougars 73-69 on Nov. 12, just two days before UCD ran WSU out of The Pavilion, 77-38. The Aggies and Gaels have played in each of the last three seasons, with UCD winning three entertaining games.


“It is always fun to play St. Mary\’s,” Simpson said. “Coach Paul Thomas is an old friend of mine who I have a lot of respect for.”


Gaels also boast a some talented players who the Aggies will have to respect in leading scorer Jasmine Smith, long-range gunner Kate Gaze and inside force Louella Tomlinson.


Smith is averaging 16.7 points per game through the first six contests, while Gaze has added 11.8 a night. Each has hit 13 3-pointers, with Gaze converting hers at a 39.4 percent clip.


“Smith is a very talented guard, who has great quickness,” Simpson said. “She is good all-around player, she can attack the basket and shoot the three.”


Tomlinson (10.8 ppg, 8.7 rebounds per game) already has 24 blocks this season, the last of which set the NCAA all-division record for career rejections at 536.


Notes: Tomlinson, a 6-foot-4 senior from Australia, also holds the NCAA single-season record for blocks after collecting 195 in 2009-10. … Gaze is also from Australia. Her uncle is Australian basketball legend Andrew Gaze, was part of five Olympic teams, played one year of college ball with Seton Hall in 1989 — going all the way to the title game — and saw action with a couple of NBA teams including the 1999 champion San Antonio Spurs.


— Reach Chris Saur at or (530) 747-8049. Comment on the story at



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