YOLO COUNTY NEWS

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High-flying Hornets to buzz Aggie village

By From page B1 | December 27, 2013

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UCD's Brianne Yasukochi makes a move during a recent home game. With a few Aggie players injured, Yasukochi has played well in an increased role off the bench. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise file photo

As Hillary Clinton pointed out in a 1996 book, sometimes it takes a village.

And as the UC Davis women’s basketball team heads into Saturday’s showdown with high-flying rival Sacramento State, that Aggie village seems to have gotten a little smaller.

Starters Alyson Doherty (illness) and Celia Marfone (leg) have been out of action much of this month, but UCD has circled the wagons and brings a two-game winning streak to The Pavilion’s 2 p.m. tip-off.

The Aggies are 4-7 thanks to a brutal schedule that has featured losses at No. 6 Stanford, at 10-1 St. Mary’s, home against a much-improved USC and on the road to No. 1 Connecticut.

In its please-ma’am-may-I-have-another nonleague slate, UCD will see if it can slow the Hornet Express, an offense that is No. 4 in the nation in scoring (93.1 ppg).

Aggie coach Jennifer Gross knows her women will have their hands full with the team that handed St. Mary’s its only loss, 94-92, earlier this month. The Gaels beat UCD, 88-71.

Sacramento State (7-1) hit 21 3-pointers in ita last contest, a 99-94 barn-burner against Big West member UC Irvine. The treys were not only a school record, but the most ever among Big Sky Conference teams.

Playing The System — a shoot-at-all-costs offense nurtured by Davis resident and retired Redlands coach Gary Smith — the Hornets had six players in double figures in beating the Anteaters.

First-year coach Bunky Harkleroad comes to Sacramento from Glenville State (West Virginia), where his Pioneers were 91-30. Yes, they averaged more than 90 points a game using that fast-paced style.

Doherty’s availability is a game-time decision and, with Marfone out, the Aggies could take the court with only nine available players.

Gross sees it as an opportunity and long-range depth-builder for her team.

“We’re definitely not waiting around for someone else to step up,” says the third-year head coach. “That’s what’s so great about basketball, being a team sport: You have a lot of different pieces … each individual on the team has a really unique strength.

“Aly and Celia obviously have strengths, but other people right now are able to showcase their strengths.”

Two of those players — sophomore Heidi Johnson and freshman Brianne Yasukochi — showed that “it takes a village” spirit in Saturday’s 63-58 overtime victory over Houston Baptist.

For the second straight game, Johnson scored 15 points. The week before, in a 75-70 win at Santa Clara, she had 10 rebounds to go with her scoring. In the HBC outing, she pulled down nine boards. The 6-foot-2 Buchanan (Clovis) High post also had two big steals, one in OT.

“She’s really seized the opportunity,” Gross adds. “We need her. She’s always been so capable — and now she’s getting confidence.”

As for guard Yasukochi, the Oceanside native brings speed to the backcourt, something that’s been missing early this season.

While sophomore Molly Greubel has been averaging 5.9 ppg and showing her maturity, Gross says Yasukochi remains a nice change of pace — as evidenced by her productive 11 minutes against Houston Baptist.

Yasukochi had three assists, a rebound and got in the way of several HBC passes. She committed only one of UCD’s 22 turnovers.

Against Sacramento State — a team that hasn’t played since Dec. 14 — if the Aggies get a cold-shooting Hornet squad, there should be more than enough rebounds to rush up the court for UCD fast-break points. And, as Aggie fans know, fast-break points this season have been few and far between.

Those easy points become even more important with the locals’ depleted depth chart.

Gross, who came into 2013-14 with 11 on her roster, isn’t worried about the future.

She said the Aggies “can only be stronger” when the team is back to full strength and “(players) who are getting the calls now will only be better for the opportunity … and when Aly and Celia come back we will be that much deeper and experienced.”

In the meantime, UCD welcomes its Causeway Cup rival Sacramento State in a game that should see the Hornets frequently buzzing around The Pavilion baskets.

Notes: Alle Moreno, a St. Mary’s (Stockton) graduate, leads Sac State in scoring (17.8 points per game). She’s followed by Hallie Gennett (13), Andrea Chenier and Fantasia Hilliard (11.6 each) and Takara Bruse (10.9). … Hilliard, a senior point guard from Sacramento High, makes the Hornets go, handling the ball and averaging 7.6 assists a game. … Moreno was the St. Mary’s prep teammate of Duke’s Chelsea Gray and Cal’s Afure Jemerigbe. Their high school teams went 93-9 while winning two Sac-Joaquin Section crowns. Cortney French, who finished her Aggie career last season, was on those Ram juggernauts. … About that 2013-14 Causeway Cup: UCD leads this year’s competition, 37.5-12.5. The women’s basketball game means 10 points in the 100-point challenge. UCD is up 5-4 in the previous nine cups.

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-320-4456.

Bruce Gallaudet

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