The 2-6 UC Davis women have five games to get their basketball swerve back before Big West Conference play begins.
Safely back in Northern California after a disappointing Eastern swing that saw a 60-point loss to No. 1 Connecticut — followed by a 2-for-30 three-point-shooting performance in a setback at Hofstra — the Aggies find their Sunday game at St. Mary’s also has a high degree of difficulty.
The Gaels (7-1) are the nation’s 14th-best scoring team (84.8 ppg), and feature one of the land’s most prolific scorers in Jackie Nared — a senior guard who is averaging 24.2 ppg.
“I believe in this team … and we believe in ourselves,” UCD coach Jennifer Gross says. “Can we go to St. Mary’s and win? Yes.”
But to do so, the Aggies need to shake it up.
Last Thursday against UConn (10-0), UCD not only went up against the pre-eminent program in the country, it didn’t play well. Then on Saturday, a power outage from beyond the arc doomed the locals.
Gross says her players’ heads are still in the game.
“We’re just trying not to look at wins and losses as a measure of who we are and what we’re capable of,” the third-year Aggie head coach explains. “There’s definitely areas where we can improve. We have to get back to running the ball, pushing it up the floor.”
The 97-37 drubbing by the Huskies was something that other teams have experienced over the years in Connecticut. But when UCD lost 76-57 on Long Island, that horrid shooting afternoon was a mystery.
What do you say, what do you think when you watch your team shoot 6.7 percent from downtown?
“A lot of coaches, after 2-for-15 or 2-for-20 would say ‘Stop shooting the ball,’ ” Gross says. “But with our team … Gosh, we go into that weekend leading the conference in 3-point shooting.”
They come out of it hitting only 29 percent of their treys for the season.
“We have shooters in every spot,” Gross continues. “We (normally) shoot the ball so well. I kept thinking the next one’s in, the next one’s in.
“You’ve got to go with the odds. It was just a flukey day for us. Whether it was the legs from the trip, I don’t know.”
The Aggies haven’t played a home game since Nov. 26. They don’t return home until Dec. 21 against Houston Baptist.
“(Last) weekend was a little draining,” says Gross, whose team just escaped New York’s big ice storm on Saturday afternoon. “It’s been a very, very challenging schedule to this point: not only in strength of the teams played but how it’s been laid out for travel.”
And UCD has hinted it’s better than it’s showing …
Early on, competitive defeats to USC, Pacific and No. 6 Stanford were followed by a 95-61 rout of San Jose State at The Pavilion.
After a tough 69-67 loss to San Francisco in the Cal Poly Holiday Classic, the Aggies came right back to defeat Akron, 71-58, the next day.
Along the way, sophomore post Alyson Doherty (a career-high 24 points on Saturday) is emerging, last year’s leading scorer Sydnee Fipps — an All-Big West choice — remains as advertised (15.1 points per game) and Iowa State transfer Kelsey Harris has been a welcome addition.
Junior forward Brianna Salvatore has been strong on defense and is hitting 58 percent of her trey attempts.
Celia Marfone, the 6-foot Laguna Hills sophomore, has started all eight games and contributed 10 points and 10 rebounds in the Hofstra loss.
And sophomore guard Molly Greubel is headed in the right direction.
Gross hopes her team has short-term memory when it comes to the recent Lost Weekend.
“We feel like if we can just turn the corner we can be really, really tough,” Gross explains. “And we know we’re going to turn that corner.
“We’re hoping it’s going to be Sunday.”
Notes: Game time at St. Mary’s is 1 p.m. On Wednesday, UCD travels to Santa Clara (2-6) for a 5:30 p.m. contest. Both are West Coast Conference squads. … Narad, a transfer from Maryland, has lots of scoring help among her Gael partners: Danielle Maudlin (19.4 ppg), Lauren Nicholson (14.9) and Kate Gaze (13.9). … Among the Aggies, after Fipps, Doherty is averaging 11 points a game and leads the team with 45 rebounds. Long-range maven Harris (10.4 ppg) is the Aggies’ top 3-point producer (22-of-61 for 36.1 percent).
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at email@example.com or 530-320-4456.