HOUSTON — It seems all the UC Davis women’s basketball team needed was a French kiss.
The return of senior Cortney French was key for the Aggies, who won back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday at the Houston Baptist Husky Classic, their first two victories on the season.
After French poured in a career-high 23 points in Friday’s 66-63 overtime win over Navy, she added 16 points on Saturday to help UCD (2-2) get past host Houston Baptist, 77-64, at Sharp Gym.
French’s efforts were good enough to earn the Husky Classic MVP award as she averaged 19.5 points per game and nailed 8-of-17 shots from 3-point range on the weekend.
On Saturday, all-tournament selection Sydnee Fipps scored a career-high 28 points to go with French’s all-around performance that included six rebounds and four steals. The sharpshooter made three treys in the opening half as the Aggies took control.
Fipp finished in double digits for the fourth consecutive game and had 19 or more for the third time in four outings this season. She hit 9-of-16 from the field, including four 3-pointers, and was a perfect 6-of-6 from the free-throw line.
Blair Shinoda had six assists to go with four steals for UCD, while Molly Greubel and Celia Marfone each added seven points in the win.
“I am so proud of how far we’ve come in just one week,” said Aggie head coach Jennifer Gross. “We’ve played two really good basketball teams this weekend in Navy and Houston Baptist and we found ways to win both games.
“I give Houston Baptist a lot of credit. They just kept clawing and fighting and battling and kept making shots. I thought when we needed to dig in (Saturday), we did.
“We got contributions again (Saturday) from some different players down the stretch. Different people will step up when their number is called. I’m gaining more confidence in our group and I think we’re gaining more confidence in ourselves.”
UCD was up by as many as 17 points in the first half thanks, in large part, to 56 percent shooting (9-of-16) from beyond the arc.
In the second half, Aniya Baker gave the Aggies their largest lead of the game, draining a trey with just over nine minutes to play. Shinoda found her wide open on the left wing and Baker converted to make it 61-43.
On Friday, French’s career effort paced three UCD scorers in double figures, making 8-of-11 from the floor and tying a personal best with five 3-pointers.
“Having Cortney back isn’t just about the offensive productivity that she brings,” Gross said. “She’s the heart of our team. She and Blair (Shinoda) together do such a tremendous job of bringing energy and confidence. She’s a leader and she showed that in every facet (Friday).”
Fipps added 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting and Marfone scored 10 points.
Down by as many as 10 points late in the second half Friday, the Aggies rallied from the deficit to send the game to overtime, starting with a Fipps trey at the 4:38 mark of the second period. UCD used an 8-0 run over the next three minutes to pull to within two points when Marfone laid the ball in at the 1:31 mark.
On the other end of the court, the local defense buckled down, holding Navy scoreless for more than four minutes, and without a field goal for the final 5:09 of the second half.
Baker’s layup with just 58 seconds left brought the Aggies to within one at 57-56. She finished with seven points.
Kara Pollinger hit two free throws for Navy with a mere 14 seconds to play, but they were answered by French, who sank a three off a pass from Shinoda to tie the contest with only six seconds left.
All seven of UCD’s overtime points came from the free-throw line, and Shinoda broke a tie by making 3-of-4 foul shots in the final 1:35 to send the Aggies to victory.
The Aggies return to The Pavilion for the first time since the season-opening game on Nov. 9, hosting No. 1 Stanford on Friday at 7 p.m. to start a three-game homestand.
“I’m excited for our fans to come out and see how far our team has come,” Gross said. “We have a young group that’s gelling and we’re getting better every day. Stanford is the No. 1 team in the country and we don’t often get the chance to play a team like that so I hope our fans come out and take advantage of getting to see some really quality basketball.
“We’re going to compete, we’re going to play hard and we’re going to be ready.”