Coming into Thursday night’s game against Big West Conference leader Cal State Northridge, the UC Davis women’s basketball team — a squad on a five-game losing streak — needed a spark.
It came in the form of Aniya Baker, the Aggies’ 5-foot-8 freshman point guard from Clovis. Baker came off the bench to score a team-high 15 points and harass Matador guards into turnover after turnover.
Her efforts, along with those of her teammates, were enough to hand Northridge a 61-46 loss at The Pavilion.
In the process, the Aggies (6-9, 1-3) secured their first win in conference play and handed the Matadors their first loss of the Big West season.
UCD couldn’t have pulled off the upset without Baker, whose wasp-like defense and sharp shooting from deep kept Northridge (10-6, 4-1) firmly behind the eight ball in the second half. This came after the Aggies got out to a fast start in the first.
Baker and fellow freshman Molly Greubel combined for seven steals.
“Aniya had a tremendous game,” said UCD head coach Jennifer Gross. “She’s such an electric player. (Thursday), she came in and she did it on both sides. Offensively, she hit some threes, timely threes. Defensively, she’s just so quick. She just gets her hands on everything.
“I thought she and Molly Greubel, when they were playing at the top of our defense together, were able to really generate some great pressure and get some steals for us.”
Overall, the Aggies forced 25 turnovers while holding Northridge to 24.1 percent shooting from the floor. The lockdown performance on defense proved critical as the Matadors outrebounded UCD, 47-38, and pressured their hosts into 18 turnovers.
UCD never trailed, getting the opening points of the game on a 3-pointer by Blair Shinoda and surging out to a 28-14 halftime lead. The Aggies connected on five threes in the first half alone, with Baker, Idit Oryon, Cortney French and Sydnee Fipps joining Shinoda with one apiece from beyond the arc.
The Matadors opened the second half on a 9-2 run, but the Aggies responded with 10-1 surge of their own, capped off by another trey from Baker. The shot gave UCD a 42-24 lead with just under 12 minutes to play.
“I felt really good, I was just happy I could do it for the team,” Baker said. “Coach always wants us to be aggressive, offensively and defensively.”
Baker later added a third successful shot from deep as the Aggies led by as many as 24.
UCD also got solid performances from Fipps, who had 11 points and six rebounds, and French, who chipped in nine points.
Shinoda had a team-high four assists to go along with six points, while freshman Alyson Doherty recorded six points and eight rebounds.
The Aggies now look ahead to Saturday, when they are set to take on Hawaii at The Pavilion. Tipoff is at 2 p.m.
Notes: The locals hit seven treys overall. … Gross cited the leadership of seniors Shinoda and French as being a major reason why Baker and the other freshmen have been able to contribute from the get-go this season, saying, “Blair and Cortney do a tremendous job of just leading by example. They don’t ever take a possession off. Their focus and work ethic is really tremendous and I think if you’re a younger player in the program, you see that’s how you become a great player.”
— Reach Will Bellamy at firstname.lastname@example.org