It wasn’t like the UC Davis women’s basketball team had trouble setting things up against St. Mary’s — the Aggies just couldn’t find a way to finish possessions on either end of the floor.
UCD forced 28 turnovers, but squeezed only 17 points out of them while allowing the Gaels to rack up 15 second-chance points on 19 offensive rebounds. The result was a 75-56 Aggie loss at The Pavilion on Thursday night.
UCD’s inability to finish extended beyond defensive rebounding and transition offense to half-court offense, where the Aggies UCD (2-4) moved the ball and found open shooters seemingly at will, but managed to connect on only 28.3 percent of their shots.
All of it had UCD head coach Jen Gross and her young team wondering what could have been — while seeing where things need to be tightened up.
“There are a lot of little mistakes that are happening in our defense and on the boards and when you add all those things up, you get a 20-point loss,” Gross said. “It’s not that there are one or two huge glaring things we need to fix. And we’re a tremendous 3-point shooting team and we got a lot of really good looks (Thursday). We make four or five or six more of those and it’s a game.
“We’re not going to overreact to the score, to the win, to the loss, whatever. (We’ll) study the film, see what we need to do better, and continue to improve.”
One area the Aggies will definitely see the need to improve is on the glass. UCD was outrebounded 58-25 by the Gaels (6-2), and the lopsided margin essentially counteracted all the turnovers and missed shots they forced.
If they can get even slightly better when it comes to rebounding, the Aggies, who are ranked fifth in the nation in steals per game, could be even better defensively this year than they were in 2010, when they rode their stingy defense to a March Madness berth.
But even with the trouble on the boards, Gross was impressed with her team’s defensive effort.
“I really felt good about the way we played defensively in the first half,” she said. “Our energy was great. Our physicality was great.”
That defense was the reason why UCD was able to keep the game close in the first half, despite going 0-fot-13 from 3-point range and shooting 22 percent overall.
With Sydnee Fipps, who finished with four steals and five rebounds to go along with 11 points, and Blair Shinoda, who had three takeaways of her own, pestering the Gaels relentlessly, St. Mary’s was unable to capitalize on the Aggies’ poor shooting.
And in the last few minutes of the period and the first part of the second half, UCD showed signs of life on offense.
After being down by as many as 10 points, the Aggies started to close the gap. Idit Oryon slashed through the lane for a layup and added a pair of free throws, and freshman Aniya Baker got inside for a bucket to make it 25-18 at halftime.
Then, in the first few minutes of the second half, Cortney French and Shinoda connected on 3-pointers from the corner to bring UCD within three.
But the Aggies’ cold shooting returned, allowing St. Mary’s to go on a 16-1 run that all but put the game away.
French led the locals with 17 points and Shinoda chipped in 10.
For the Gaels, Jackie Nared had 18 points and 12 rebounds, and Danielle Mauldin posted 17 and 15.
UCD will have a chance to sharpen up during a 10-day break before hosting Santa Clara on Sunday, Dec. 16, at 4 p.m.
— Reach Will Bellamy at firstname.lastname@example.org