LONG BEACH — What a difference a point makes.
If the UC Davis women’s basketball team had been able to hold off Long Beach State on Saturday at Walter Pyramid, the Aggies would be sitting pretty in second place in the Big West.
Instead, after a 60-59 loss to the 49ers, UCD fell to fourth place in conference at 7-5. The Aggies, who have now lost two games in a row for the first time all year, are 17-7 overall after starting the season at 10-2.
On Saturday, LBSU’s Courtney Jacob made a free throw with 4.5 seconds to go and Kasey Riecks was unable to convert on the other end as time expired.
Paige Mintun scored in double figures for the 16th straight game, finishing with 14 points to lead UCD, which shot just 32.2 percent from the field.
The 49ers, who trailed by as many as 12 points in the second half, picked up 17 points from Jacob and 13 from Brandi Henton to improve to 7-19 overall and 5-7 in conference play. Like the Aggies, Long Beach struggled from the field, making just 32.8 percent, but benefited with six fewer turnovers than UCD after halftime. The 49ers outscored the Aggies 10-3 off turnovers over the final 20 minutes.
“The difference really was that in the second half we had 12 turnovers,” said UCD head coach Sandy Simpson. “We shot just as poorly in both halves but we gave ourselves fewer opportunities in the second half. The turnover difference completely flipped in the second half and essentially gave Long Beach State that many more scoring opportunities.”
The end was a thrilling one, set up by Jacob canning a corner three with 53 seconds left that put the 49ers in front, 58-55. Mintun was fouled on the Aggies’ next possession and nailed a pair from the line to make it a one-point game.
Facing fullcourt pressure on the ensuing inbounds, the 49ers got to the stripe when Melanie Lisnock broke toward the LBSU basket, took a long pass and was fouled by Hana Asano as she tried a layup. Lisnock made 1-of-2 for a 59-57 lead, but UCD’s Heidi Heintz answered within an inside bucket on the other end to tie it again with just 12 seconds remaining.
Jacob, though, moved quickly back the other way, drawing a foul on Vicky Deely in the key with 4.5 seconds on the clock. She missed the first free throw, but made the second for what turned out to be the winning margin. The Aggies was able to push the ball into the frontcourt but Riecks’ shot from the left side of the lane was contested and rolled off the rim as time expired.
The loss was a disappointing one for UCD which had forged double-digit leads in both halves.
The Aggies used a 10-3 run during the middle portion of the first half to turn a four-point lead into a 30-19 advantage with 5:22 on the clock. Four different players scored during the run, highlighted by three points from Deely and a 3-pointer from Lauren Juric. But, trailing by 10 with 3:28 to play, the 49ers scored the final seven points of the half go into the break down just 32-29.
UCD had just three turnovers in the first half and made five 3-pointers.The 49ers outrebounded the Aggies, 29-21, in the first half, including grabbing 13 on the offensive side. UCD was able to turn the tide in the second half, outbreounding LBSU 23-17 with only four of the 49ers’ boards on their half of the court.
3-pointers by Riecks and Mintun helped the Aggies score the first eight points after halftime to make it 40-29, a lead that reached its pinnacle at 43-31 after another trey from Riecks. LBSU slowly bit into the deficit, though, getting it to just 50-47 with 8:07 to go after a layup from Tipesa Moorer.
Guard Brandi Henton’s 3-pointer tied it at 52-52 almost three minutes later before Sendy Velles’ jumper put the 49ers in front for the first time since the first half, 54-53. The game was tied once more, 55-55 with 1:35 to play before the exciting finish.
“We’ve got to develop a little bit more aggressive mentality against the zone,” Simpson said. “We didn’t knock down threes in the second half like we did in the first half but part of that was we were a little bit tentative.”
Riecks and Samantha Meggison each had nine points for UCD, while Mintun had a team-high eight rebounds. The Aggies also had a season-low three steals.
The Aggies have four Big West games left, but first they take a break from conference action Feb. 24 when they will play UC Riverside at The Pavilion. UCD will host Seattle in a nonconference game on Friday at 7 p.m.