Just as soon as it had begun to pick up some speed, the UC Davis women’s basketball team was stopped dead in its tracks Saturday by Hawaii’s Ashleigh Karaitiana.
With the Aggies having scored six of the game’s last eight points to cut the Rainbow Wahine’s lead to four with a little over two minutes to go, Karaitiana drained an open 3-pointer from the corner that sucked the air right out of UCD.
The whiplash of the shot proved too much for the Aggies to overcome as they managed only four points the rest of the way in a 71-63 loss at The Pavilion.
On a more macrocosmic level, the shot squashed any momentum UCD might have gathered after getting its first Big West Conference win on Thursday with a 61-46 drubbing of conference leader Cal State Northridge. Saturday’s loss dropped the locals to 6-10 and 1-4 in league play.
The decisive shot probably wouldn’t have mattered, however, if the Aggies hadn’t put themselves behind the eight ball to begin with.
UCD struggled to adjust to Hawaii’s defensive tactics. The Rainbow Wahine (8-9, 4-2) clogged up the passing lanes required to run the backdoor cuts that the Aggies have come to rely on and bodied up shooters on the perimeter. Sydnee Fipps scored 26 points, primarily on drives inside, but there were no other consistent sources of offense. Fipps, who also added five rebounds, was the only Aggie to score in double figures.
“The thing about our offense is that there are counters for everything,” UCD head coach Jennifer Gross said afterward. “(But) we’re young and we’re still figuring out how to make reads. We need to understand that if (opponents) take away one thing, something else is going to be there.”
UCD also turned the ball over 16 times and gave up 17 offensive rebounds, which led to 14 Hawaii points.
“Give credit to Hawaii,” Gross added. “They really played tough for 40 minutes and I think on the boards they did wear us down a little bit.”
The majority of the local errors came after they took a 27-19 lead with 7:43 left to go in the first half. Until that point, the Aggies had looked poised to blow the game open behind the efforts of Fipps and a relentless defense that forced 21 turnovers on the night.
But from there on out, the game would be mostly Hawaii’s. Behind Karaitiana, who scored 16 points in the first half and 22 overall, the Rainbow Wahine closed out the period on an 18-9 run and led 37-36 at intermission.
The Aggies briefly retook the lead several times in the early stages of the second half, but fell behind for good on a layup by Kamilah Martin with just over six minutes left. Martin, who had 18 points, struck again moments later, completing a three-point play to put Hawaii up 61-53 with 5:51 to go.
It was at this point that UCD made its final gambit for the win. In a span of 1:10, Aniya Baker hit a jumper, Fipps added a pair of free throws and Blair Shinoda slipped inside for a layup that cut the Wahine’s lead to two.
But Kalei Adolpho scored on a lay-up of her own and Karaitiana followed her up with her big trey to finish the Aggies off.
UCD got nine points from Cortney French and six apiece from Baker and Idit Oryon.
The Aggies will have a chance to get back in the win column when they travel to Cal State Fullerton on Thursday.
— Reach Will Bellamy at firstname.lastname@example.org