They say defense wins championships.
But, as the UC Davis women’s basketball team learned on Saturday night, anytime you turn the ball over 30 times and connect on only 32.7 percent of your shot attempts, you’re not going to win, no matter how much you slow down the other team.
The Aggies turned in their worst offensive performance of the season in falling 60-42 to Cal State Fullerton in the second game of a UCD basketball doubleheader at The Pavilion.
The final statistics were far from pretty, with the Aggies (11-15, 6-9 in Big West Conference play) also giving up 28 second-chance points on 20 offensive rebounds, getting outscored 42-19 in the second half and going scoreless for seven straight minutes down the stretch as the Titans (8-18, 4-10) surged to their second-most lopsided victory of the year.
“This was a hard loss,” UCD head coach Jennifer Gross said in the postgame press conference, after taking several moments to collect her thoughts. “(It was) just tough. I thought our energy was good before the game. I thought our confidence was good. We just didn’t maintain that through the entire 40 minutes and somehow we got in a rut in the second half.”
While they never looked especially sharp, the Aggies did play a far better game in the first half than they did down the stretch. Their lightning-quick guards harassed the Titans into 19 turnovers in the first period alone and UCD used its team speed to turn the miscues into fast breaks and high-percentage shots. And they would’ve gotten more of those attempts if they hadn’t coughed the ball up 14 times before intermission.
Through it all, UCD led 23-18 at halftime and looked capable of pulling away in the second half. The period opened with Sydnee Fipps — who finished with a game-high 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds — scoring on one of her signature bowling ball-like drives through the lane and teammate Celia Marfone getting inside for another layup to give the Aggies their largest lead of the game at 27-18.
But it all went south from there. The turnovers started to pile up and the Titans quickly grabbed the advantage and began to run away with the game. After Fipps knocked down a pair of free throws to cut Fullerton’s advantage to 35-34 with 9:11 to go, the scoring drought began. UCD finally scored on a pair of free throws from Cortney French, who was the only other Aggie in double figures with 10 points, with 2:11 left to play.
During that same stretch, the Titans scored 19 unanswered points to put themselves firmly in the driver’s seat.
“We started missing and it was contagious,” a visibly frustrated Fipps said afterward. “They started making (shots) and they basically could (have shot) with their eyes closed and (the ball) was probably going to go in because they were getting more and more confident.”
Outside of Fipps and French, no one was able to consistently score for UCD. Molly Greubel had five points, Marfone added four and Alyson Doherty posted four points and a team-high nine rebounds. Point guard Blair Shinoda had five assists.
With a win on Saturday, the team would have clinched a berth in the Big West Tournament. Now they’ll have to do it on the road against UC Irvine or Long Beach State this week, or at home against Pacific in the regular season finale.
“I just said (to the players in the locker room after the game) that we need to stay on track,” Gross said. “This was a tough loss. It hurt. We would have loved to have clinched that playoff spot, but we’re not done.
“We need to go on the road and we need to be focused. We need to be committed to working hard to get some wins on the road. We need a spot in that tournament and then it’s anybody’s game at that point on.”
— Reach Will Bellamy at firstname.lastname@example.org