Usually a loss effectively kills any momentum a team has gathered.
But for the UC Davis women’s basketball team on Saturday, coming up short might have had the opposite effect.
The Aggies were a couple of missed shots away from knocking off the first-place team in the Big West Conference in Pacific. Instead, they fell 59-54 to the Tigers at The Pavilion in their regular-season finale.
UCD (12-17, 7-11) turned in one of its best defensive performances of the year, holding Pacific (24-6, 14-4) — the highest-scoring team in the league at 69.8 points per game — to 33.3 percent shooting from the floor and 25 percent from beyond the arc. The Aggies also pressured the Tigers into 14 turnovers and limited them to six second-chance points.
The only thing that kept UCD from foiling Pacific’s plans of clinching the Big West title on Saturday was a less-than-stellar shooting performance. The Aggies connected on only 37.5 percent of their shots (21.1 percent from 3-point range). But shooting percentages are bound to fluctuate, and the locals have shown on multiple occasions this season that they are more than capable of scoring in bunches.
The Aggies’ performance had sophomore Sydnee Fipps, who scored a game-high 18 points, optimistic about the team’s chances at making a run in the conference tournament next week. The locals will kick off the tournament by facing Cal State Northridge in Irvine on Tuesday night.
“I thought we played a really good defensive game,” Fipps said. “I’m really proud of our team and the momentum we are going to take away from this.”
Added head coach Jennifer Gross: “We played one of the most solid defensive games that we’ve played all year and that’s exciting, heading into a conference tournament where it’s going to take defense to get it done.”
On Saturday, UCD gave Pacific a fight throughout and led by as many as eight in the first half, but Pacific pulled away down the stretch. With eight minutes left to play, Ashley Wakefield hit a jumper that put the Tigers up 47-45 and it all went south for the Aggies from there.
UCD managed just four points in the next four minutes while Pacific continued to find the basket. After that, the Aggies never got the lead closer than two possessions.
“It came down to a couple of shots. (They) rimmed out,” Gross said.
UCD got solid performances from Molly Greubel, who notched a career-high 16 points to go along with four rebounds, and point guard Blair Shinoda, who had five points and four assists.
Shinoda, along with fellow starter Cortney French (one point and four rebounds), was honored at half court before the game as part of Senior Night. Both received standing ovations from the crowd.
“It’s hard to think about them not being here anymore. I’ve grown so fond of both of them,” Gross said. “What Blair did out there (Saturday) is what she has done her whole career. You look at her numbers, they don’t maybe pop out at you, but she’s absolutely the glue that holds this team together. We have asked her to play every position in her career, one through five, on both offense and defense. She smiles, she does it to the best of her ability, and she does whatever this team needs.
“If you could pick out every characteristic that goes along with Aggie pride, that’s who (French) is. She’s the most selfless person I think I’ve ever been around. It’s always about helping other people and what she can do for her teammates and members of her family. She’s such a great communicator on the court. She’s always talking. If I ask the team for energy, she brings energy, all the time, and she really does her best to keep it going throughout.”
Fortunately, the Aggies will have both of their seniors for at least one more game. And they’ll need them.