Sometimes a school schedules a game and, long before the contest is even played, the writing is on the wall.
Such was the case Thursday at The Pavilion when the UC Davis women’s basketball team routed visiting NAIA Division II Simpson University, 78-46.
At one point in the second half, the Aggies led by 40 as UCD coach Jennifer Gross employed an all-hands-on-deck approach in front of an afternoon crowd estimated at 300.
The Aggies concluded the nonconference portion of the campaign at 5-8 while the Red Hawks of Redding fell to 6-11.
With Sydnee Fipps scoring 21 — her fifth straight 20-point outing — UCD took an early 4-2 lead and never looked back. The junior 2013 All-Big West selection also grabbed 11 rebounds and had two steals.
In addition to Fipps’ solid performance, Kelsey Harris scored 17 points and Clovis native Heidi Johnson (14 points and eight rebounds) is warming to her latest responsibilities around the basket.
Johnson, who played post at Buchanan High, started the season on the perimeter and in baseline adventures.
Now she has been asked to fill the void created when Celia Marfone (leg) and Alyson Doherty (illness) exited the lineup after a 76-57 loss at Hofstra on Dec. 7.
Doherty — who returned Saturday after missing three games — also was terrific against Simpson. The Lake Forest sophomore scored 14 points with five rebounds. Despite Marfone still being listed as day-to-day, Doherty’s return now gives UCD much-needed depth inside.
Gross talked about Johnson’s continued energy in the paint:
“Roles change throughout the year. When our posts went out, she’s gone 15 and 10. That’s Heidi’s new role: 15 and 10.”
Actually, in her last four outings, the 6-foot-2 Johnson is averaging 12 points and 4.4 rebounds.
“She’s a tough matchup. We’re really going to be relying on her as we start conference.”
As proof of Johnson’s and Doherty’s value, UCD outscored the overmatched Red Hawks 46-16 in the paint.
Another sophomore — point guard Molly Greubel — joined Harris and Doherty in fueling the fast Aggie start.
Greubel scored six points, had three assists, a steal and played strong defense while Harris had 15 of her points in the first 20 minutes (including two late 3-pointers to send the locals to the locker room up 39-17).
Doherty hit all four of her inside shots in the first half, including back-to-back scores off assists from freshman Brianne Yasukochi.
UCD shot 48.3 percent from the field and held Simpson to 26.2.
But after 15 turnovers Thursday, the Aggies now have 45 in the last two games.
Hawk guard Esther Wofford led her squad with 11 points while Nicole Jones — averaging 13.8 points per game coming in — was held to two free throws.
The Aggies out-boarded Simpson, 48-33, had 11 steals and dished out 19 assists.
So why Simpson University, a struggling NAIA squad?
Gross said her women needed someone between the Sacramento State game (an 84-78 loss) and their Big West opener against Cal State Northridge next Thursday at The Pavilion.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to look at somebody different,” the coach added. “We’ve had a couple really, really good practices with a focus on a couple of key areas.
“(This game) was a chance to see … how is our focus, how is our effort.
“In a couple of areas (shooting, passing, perimeter defense), it was great. In a couple of areas (turnovers, defensive rebounding and overall urgency), it still needs to improve.”
Gross said her team “is stroking the ball pretty good” and that fans will see “some big improvements” when league play begins next week.
Notes: Harris, a junior transfer from Iowa State, has 36 points in her last two outings. … Meanwhile, if Fipps scores 20 or more in the Big West opener, she will tie Aimee Conner Hasson’s 1993 school mark of six straight games with 20-plus points. … Forward Lauren Beyer (elbow) was injured in practice and missed the Simpson outing. If Long Beach State (7-6) loses to Denver on Sunday, no Big West team will enter conference with a winning record. … Simpson University — founded in 1921 as Simpson Bible College in Seattle, moved to San Francisco before settling in Redding in 1989. It is a member of the California Pacific Conference.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-747-8047.