Although the UC Davis women’s basketball team was in sync for most of the first half, an 11-point UC Irvine run erased an eight-point Aggie lead and the Anteaters went on to win, 68-55, on Saturday at The Pavilion.
Its victory means UCI snatched the No. 4 Big West Conference Tournament seed from the locals, forcing UCD to give up a first-round bye. Now, the fifth-seeded Aggies must play a first-round game with No. 8 UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday (6 p.m.) at The Pyramid at Long Beach State.
“I think we executed our game plan pretty well,” the Aggies’ lone senior Idit Oryon said after her last home game. “We got good shots. We just didn’t make them. Our threes … We usually shoot a much better percentage than we did (Saturday).”
UCD was 5-for-29 from behind the arc (17.2 percent). A solid showing in the paint salvaged the Aggies’ overall shooting effort — 37.9 percent on 22-of-58.
In contrast, UCD averages 42.5 percent overall from the floor (and 32.8 from 3-point range).
“You look at a lot of different categories, we played an even game with them,” said Aggie coach Jennifer Gross. “For us to shoot 17 percent for threes is abnormal. We did get great shots …”
A tour of the stat sheet validates Gross’ take: UCD out-rebounded Irvine, 40-37; the Aggies had four blocked shots (to zero for UCI); and the locals dished out a season-high 19 assists.
But 1-for-13 on second-half treys — and 17 turnovers — doomed the Aggies.
At the outset, UCD (14-15, 9-7) got the crowd of 647 going by taking a 7-1 lead — thanks to Oryon’s 5 points and some solid defensive play against All-BWC candidate Camille Buckley.
The physical Anteater from Ontario would eventually get her points (18) and rebounds (14), but through 13:45, Buckley was held to one bucket while the Aggies led, 26-18.
Then it all went south for UCD …
Guard Lauren Spinazze scored 8 of her 9 points in a three-minute span while assisting on another Irvine bucket and recording a late steal.
When the horn signified intermission, UCI (16-14, 9-7) had gone on that 13-2 blitz and led, 31-28.
At one point, with the Aggies freezing behind the arc, the Anteaters opened a 13-point bulge with just over seven minutes left — again settling for that margin at the very end.
Still, UCD flexed its muscles inside thanks to another big game from center Alyson Doherty.
The sophomore from Lake Forest scored 20 points, grabbed seven rebounds, provided four assists and had four blocks.
The 6-foot-3 center also made some highlight-reel moves inside — especially converting a pass from Celia Marfone with a forceful, right-handed scoop shot around Buckley.
The basket came at 16:37 of the second period and moved UCD to within three at 39-36. It was as close as the Aggies would get for the remainder of the afternoon.
“(Doherty) has come on so strong for us,” Gross said. “She’s done a tremendous job of working on her game, developing her left hand. She has great size. She demands the ball inside.
“And credit to her teammates … I think our post passing has improved dramatically throughout the conference season. We’re doing a great job of getting her the ball inside.
“I feel now like we have a great combination of inside and out, and Aly’s a big part of that.”
Marfone added 10 rebounds and 10 points (her third double-digit board performance in the last four games). Kelsey Harris — who got a tooth knocked loose — struck just twice on 10 shots from 3-point range. The two treys give her 77 3-pointers, and she needs just four more to tie all-time single-season Aggie bombardier Karen Boisvert’s 81 in 1991.
However, UCD scoring leader Sydnee Fipps (18.2 ppg) scored a season-low 5 points. She was 2-for-11 and had trouble penetrating the UCI zone defense. The junior wing did have five assists.
Kelly Megga paced Irvine with 22 points, hitting 5-of-8 from long range. The Anteaters shot 36 percent from beyond the arc (9-of-25).
The loss sets up a Tuesday matchup against a UC Santa Barbara squad that the Aggies have beaten twice this season.
Win that one and UCD gets ol’ friend Irvine. The victory Saturday made the Anteaters 2-0 against the locals.
Promising her women aren’t taking UCSB (8-21, 3-13) for granted, Gross peeked ahead to Wednesday:
“Irvine has been a little thorn in our side … but whoever it is, we’ll be ready. If we’re playing our best basketball … we’ll be ready for anybody.”
Notes: Oryon played in front of mom Edna and brother Barak for the second straight game. The trio joined Gross at center court for a ceremony before tipoff. “It’s been so nice to have them around,” said the forward from Jerusalem. “It’s the first time they watched me play college basketball. I was a little nervous, but it was amazing to have them watching, here with me — being able to hug them after the games.” … Both the Israeli and U.S. national anthems were sung before Saturday’s tip-off. …From the Birthday Buddies Dept.: Aggie men’s arena voice Larry Swanson was in attendance for his birthday. Also, Cesar Chavez Elementary School student Grace Scheuring was on hand for her 10th birthday. Grace is the daughter of Angela (West) Schuering, who played for the Aggies in the 1990s. … Third-year UCD team manager Ricky Santos also was thanked for his contributions. … In other Big West action, Cal Poly became the tourney’s No. 2 seed with a 79-68 win over Santa Barbara. Hawaii fell to Cal State Fullerton, 61-42, and takes the third seed. Meanwhile, UC Riverside was knocked out by Long Beach State, 89-81. First-place Cal State Northridge ended its season Thursday.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-320-4456.