They may have been going up against the Highlanders, but the UC Davis women’s basketball team’s quality of play was pretty low on Thursday night. The result was a 74-62 loss to UC Riverside at The Pavilion.
To be fair, it wasn’t all bad for the Aggies (18-8, 7-6), who actually outscored the visitors, 43-42, in the second half, and committed six fewer turnovers on the game. But what UCD could never seem to overcome, was its shooting woes, which extended from the free throw stripe, to the 3-point line, to the floor as a whole.
With the exception of super-sub Vicky Deely, who scored a team-high 21 points, the Aggies were unable to get comfortable against the physical pressure defense of UCR (15-11, 8-5). During a disappointing first half, UCD shot just 33 percent, hit 1-of-8 3-point attempts and couldn’t get to the foul line even once.
The locals picked it up in the second half and, while they only connected on two treys after intermission, a new-found determination to drive to the rack resulted in 24 free-throws in the final 20 minutes. The Aggies’ aggressiveness was admirable, but unfortunately only 13 of the foul shots found the net.
“I thought the difference (Thursday) was Riverside’s aggression level in the first half compared to ours,” said UCD mentor Sandy Simpson, who coached his second to last regular season game at The Pavilion. “In the second half, we began attacking and drawing more fouls … we just have to stay aggressive, but you can’t have two disparate halves.”
Simpson, the program’s all-time wins leader will retire at the end of the season. UCD’s final home game on the schedule is Saturday against UC Irvine, and if the fourth-place Aggies don’t finish strong, it could be his final contest in front of the home fans. The top four teams in the Big West will play a first-round home in the conference tournament.
On Thursday, Deely shot 9-of-14, but was forced to scrap inside for offensive rebounds and didn’t get out to the 3-point arc as much as usual. She led the team with eight boards, six of which came on the Aggies’ end of the floor. Wing Samantha Meggison also had a strong game, with 10 points, four assists and a strong defensive effort — which resulted in four personal fouls.
“You try and come out and set the tone with the guards and see what the refs are trying to do,” Meggison said. “You have to be aggressive though, you can’t necessarily just back off (once you get fouls). Maybe you don’t go for some of the steals like when you have less fouls, but our defense (isn’t) effective playing like that.”
Despite falling behind by as much as 18, UCD never quit. Kasey Riecks’ last-second layup drew the Aggies to within 13 at the end of the first half, and later, a Deely trey coupled with an off-ball foul that put Heidi Heintz on the line resulted in a four-point play. But in the end, its tough defense allowed UC Riverside to take sole possession of third place in the Big West.
The Highlanders were led by TreShonti Nottingham, who tallied 25 points thanks to 10-for-10 free-throw shooting. Alyssa Morris and Rhaya Neabors also contributed 16 and 14 points, respectively, while Brittany Waddell swatted away four shots. The Highlanders’ advantage at the foul line was a huge factor.
“The last few years, we’ve been one of the better free-throw-shooting programs in the nation … we just have to be a little more focused,” Simpson said. “At this stage, against teams we’re playing, we have to be better at the line. No question.”