IRVINE — Whether it was getting revenge for a loss to UC Irvine earlier in the season, or because the two teams are competing for one of the last spots in the Big West Conference Tournament later this month, the UC Davis women’s basketball team had a lot to play for on Thursday.
Even with all of that on in the line, it took 35 minutes of game time before the Aggies seemed to realize it at the Bren Events Center.
But UCD held the Anteaters without a point for the final five minutes, outscoring its hosts 13-0 down the stretch, and rallied from a late nine-point deficit to record a critical 47-43 victory.
The Aggies (12-5) improved to 7-9 in Big West play and, just as importantly, sent UCI (9-18) to 5-10 in league games, snapping the Anteaters’ four-game win streak.
In the victory, Sydnee Fipps had a career-high five 3-pointers, including four in the row in the second half, and scored 19 points while senior Cortney French had a trio of treys and finished with nine points. Overall, UCD went 11-for-27 from beyond the arc, making 7-of-14 after halftime.
The Aggies trailed 43-34 with 5:16 left after a pair of free throws by UCI guard Jennifer Tsurumoto before roaring back for the win.
French and Blair Shinoda nailed 3-pointers to help cut the deficit to 43-42 with 3:58 left and then French deposited a corner trey at 3:21 to put UCD in front for the first time since the opening half.
The Anteaters then missed their next four shots and had a pair of turnovers as the Aggies held them off.
With 13 seconds left, UCD freshman Molly Gruebel’s two free throws made it 47-43 to seal the win.
“We always have five 3-pointer shooters on the floor,” said Aggie coach Jennifer Gross. “Everybody on our team can shoot the ball. So when they’re taking one person away, somebody else gets open and I thought we did a really nice job against their zone. We hit them when it counted.”
In the first half, it was the UCD defense that took center stage as the locals held Irvine to just 26.1 percent from the floor. Freshman Alyson Doherty had three blocks for the Aggies, while French and Fipps each led the team with seven rebounds.
“We met on Monday as a team, talked about the things we can improve this year and our defensive urgency was a real key for us,” Gross said. “I thought we showed (Thursday) that we’re committed to that.”
However, the Anteaters used an 11-0 run to take a 20-18 halftime lead.
With the big closing stretch, UCD put itself into in seventh place in the Big West standings, trailing Long Beach State and Cal State Northridge by just half a game. The Aggies play a road contest against the 49ers on Saturday at 2 p.m.