By Benjy Egel
When it came down to it, the UC Davis women’s basketball team just needed one last shot.
The Aggies dropped a road contest, 73-71, to Big West rival Cal Poly on Thursday, as a thunderous comeback came up short when UCD was unable to release a final shot in time.
Sydney Fipps grabbed a defensive rebound with nine seconds left and pushed the ball up the floor, but the Ags couldn’t find an open look and only released the ball after the buzzer sounded.
“Our team knows what we need to do,” said UCD head coach Jennifer Gross. “We need to play 40 minutes with the same kind of urgency and purpose as the second half of that game.”
Cortney French scored 19 of her career-high 26 points after the break to push the Aggies (5-8, 0-2 Big West Conference) back into the contest after an early deficit.
“I was feeling good in the second half, but it was just not enough,” French said. “I was really hoping to win the game … we were all working hard, but it was not enough in the end.”
Fipps started the game as hot as French finished, scoring eight points in the first nine minutes to help UCD go up 14-12. She ended up with 17 points and tied French for the team lead with six rebounds.
The Aggies’ advantage proved to be short-lived as Cal Poly (8-6, 2-1) lit up the scoreboard with a 13-4 run capped by a fast-break 3-pointer from the corner by point guard Ariana Elegado.
A three-point play from Fipps stopped the run, but the two teams traded buckets until the first half ended with the Mustangs up 43-32.
After intermission, the UCD defense tightened up significantly. Open driving lanes were filled by French and freshman Molly Greubel, as the Aggies learned to use their guard-heavy lineup to a defensive advantage.
The Mustangs shot just 35.5 percent in the second half — nearly 20 percent lower than their first-half mark — and were outscored 39-30 by the locals.
“We really tried to focus on limiting their transition opportunities,” Gross said. “We gave them 43 in the first half, then held them to 30 in the second half.”
UCD’s comeback gained steam when French drained four consecutive 3-pointers to cut the gap to 71-67 with four minutes left in the game.
But Fipps crumpled to the floor a minute later, and had to leave with what appeared to be an ankle injury. Even though the Aggie sophomore returned shortly after, the momentum gained from French’s clutch shooting had already vanished.
French finished near the basket to make it a two-point game, but Jonae Ervin responded with a running layup with 17 seconds left.
Blair Shinoda hit two free throws to make it 73-71, where the game ended after Aggies failed to release a shot. Shinoda finished with 14 points.
Former Davis High star Nikol Allison started at forward for Cal Poly. Allison, the 2009 Blue Devil Female Athlete of the Year, recorded eight points and led the Mustangs with nine rebounds.
“It’s kind of strange, because I know they’re living in the town I grew up in, and I love that town,” Allison said. “I actually played with them a little bit in open gym and stuff when I went home for the summer.”
Allison will return to her hometown when Cal Poly comes to play at The Pavilion on Feb. 9. While her father Craig was in attendance on Thursday, she is looking forward to playing in front of more family members — including younger sister Rachael, a standout freshmen for the DHS girls team — next month.
“My whole family’s going to be able to go because it’s in Davis,” Allison said. “I’m excited to be there and to play (UCD) again because I think we could do a couple of things better.”