When Big West front-runner Cal Poly comes calling Thursday night, Aggie fans will hope the UC Davis women, with a win at The Pavilion (7 p.m.), can close to within a half-game of first place in the conference.
Meanwhile, UCD swingman Sydnee Fipps will be an entertaining back story as the junior from Mariposa needs only 18 points to become the 16th player in Aggie history to achieve the 1,000 mark.
“The 1,000-point milestone is something so incredibly special and it takes a special player to achieve it,” Aggie coach Jennifer Gross told The Enterprise. “Every opposing coach, every opposing player knows the ball is going to be in her hands a lot and that’s she going to be trying to create for us. Yet, she still manages to put up 20-plus points almost every single night.”
Fipps (17.3 points per game) is the No. 3 scorer in the conference and is not interested in focusing on her eventual milestone. The Incredible Ms. Fipps is about winning. Her coach and on-the-floor play are left to do the talking …
“It’s testament to her and the work that she’s put in to be able to say, ‘Hey. Whether you double-team me, single coverage or triple-team me, I’m going to find a way to put the ball in the basket,’ ” added Gross, herself a member of that exclusive 1,000-point club during her Aggie playing days.
“The unique thing about Syd, if she could take those 1,000 points and trade them in for championships, she’s going to trade them in for championships in a second.”
Cal Poly (5-1, 11-8) just hammered UC Riverside (89-72), a team UCD beat, 77-67, on Jan. 16.
The Aggies (8-10 overall, 3-2 in Big West) are coming off of a 64-50 loss at Hawaii last week.
Gross said the game felt closer “because we were doing a lot of things right. The problem was they were capitalizing every single time we made a mistake.”
The locals were outscored 19-8 off turnovers, got killed 14-6 on the offensive boards and were limited to only 39 shots while hitting but 35.9 percent of them.
Fipps scored her obligatory 17 points and guard Molly Greubel was a trouper in playing 38 minutes and providing UCD with its largest lead, 19-14, on a first-half lay-in.
“We have to let our defense fuel our offense and in Hawaii we didn’t do that,” Gross continued, adding: “We saw our mistakes in film … and we are 100 percent committed to improve.”
The Aggies will have to …
The Mustangs sport inside powerhouse Molly Schlemer, who is scoring 17.5 points per game and leading the conference with 10.6 rebounds per outing. Schlemer also leads the Big West in shot consistency, hitting 56 percent.
On the wings, Araina Elegado (16.7 ppg) and Jonae Ervin (12.9) present problems. Each can dish the ball (4.5 assists apiece per game) and likes to run when possible. Cal Poly scores at a conference-best clip of 78.3 ppg.
Sophomore Greubel will again carry the ball-handling load with Brianna Salvatore (knee) hurt. Salvatore missed much of last year with another injury.
Gross said her junior guard from Villa Park is “day-to-day” and will be re-examined by doctors this week. Meanwhile, the team’s only senior — Idit Oryon — is expected back “soon” from a foot injury.
UC Santa Barbara (6-12, 1-4) is in town Saturday (2 p.m.).
Meanwhile, the Aggie men head to the Central Coast on Thursday, where Cal Poly (8-11, 4-2) might be a grumpy group of ponies.
The Mustangs are coming off of a 61-58 loss to UC Riverside on Saturday.
Last-place UCD (6-14, 1-4) hasn’t played since being beaten at home by Hawaii, 90-73, last Thursday. Clearly, the Aggies would like to climb up the league ladder as eight of the Big West’s nine schools qualify for the postseason.
Cal Poly is led by forward Chris Eversley (13.5 points a game, seven rebounds a night) while junior guard Corey Hawkins — the league’s No. 3 scorer at 18.2 ppg — continues to lead the Aggies.
Ryan Sypkens has his season average up to 11.9 ppg and Georgi Funtarov continues to evolve. The 20-year-old Bulgarian freshman is averaging 9.1 points and 4.7 rebounds in his expanding role.
Game time is 7 p.m. in San Luis Obispo.
Notes: The UCD men then travel to UC Santa Barbara for a 4 p.m. Saturday game. … UC Irvine (13-8, 4-1) leads the Big West. … Hawaii junior Keith Shamburger earned the Big West Men’s Basketball Player of the Week award. Shamburger led the Rainbow Warriors to back-to-back 90-point performances in wins at UCD and UC Irvine. … Hawaii’s 17-point win against the Aggies marked the Warriors’ biggest road margin of victory in 11 seasons.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at email@example.com or 530-320-4456.