YOLO COUNTY NEWS

Aggies

UCD women roll into San Jose

By December 20, 2010

Enterprise sports editor

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UC Davis women\’s basketball coach Sandy Simpson usually spends the first 10 or so games of a given season watching and analyzing his team.

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Well coach, it\’s been 10 games, your team is 8-2 — it\’s best start since the 2001-02 season — and you are coming off of a 78-55 victory over Sacramento State on Sunday where you excelled on both ends of the floor. So what are you seeing?

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“We\’ve really found that if we are struggling at one end of the floor, it affects the other end,” Simpson said. “Last year, if we struggled offensively, we were still able to play well on the defensive end and keep some ugly games close enough to have a chance down the stretch. But this team is kind of all or nothing.”

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So far this season, the “all” has been a much more frequent occurrence. Going into tonight\’s game at San Jose State, the Aggies\’ only losses have come against teams in and around the Top 25 — UCLA and Kansas State. With an experienced starting lineup and a deep bench, all Simpson needs from his team is to bring the energy and focus, then the rest often takes care of itself.

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“We think that we are reaching an understanding, where the players know that we have to bring the energy every game, from the start,” said the coach, who announced before the year that he would retire at the end of the season. “Sometimes players unconsciously pace themselves at the beginning of a game because of fatigue, but (our players) are starting to realize that they can go hard, even if it\’s just for two or three minutes, because the bench can come in without a drop-off.

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“We can really go 9 or 10 deep comfortably and that is going to be this team\’s identity.”

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Though Simpson would prefer his team not start slowly — like UCD did at the Hornets\’ Nest on Sunday when it fell behind 7-2 and missed 12 of its first 13 shots — the Aggies have a rare ability to get back into games with spurts of dominance.

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After that first stretch against Sacramento State, UCD went on a 12-0 run and never trailed again. The most impressive example of the Aggies\’ quick-strike capability came one game earlier at Wichita State. In that 78-66 road win on Dec. 14, UCD scored 25 straight points in the first half, using that 10-minute outburst to take control of the game.

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“Obviously, if you are going to go on a whatever-to-zero run, you have to lock down teams defensively and we definitely have the ability to play extended stretches of good defense,” Simpson said. “But it also really points back to our bench. Most teams, when they bring in substitutes are going to lose a lot offensively. For us, when we go to the bench, we can even extend leads because of how good those players are offensively.”

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Using the same starting group of center Paige Mintun, surrounded by guards Hana Asano and Samantha Meggison and wings Heidi Heintz and Kasey Riecks in all 10 games, has left Simpson with some real talent to choose from when one of them needs a breather.

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Leading the banner bench is Vicky Deely, an all-around stud on offense who can score inside and step back to drain 3-pointers at a nearly 50-percent clip that put her second in the nation in last week\’s rankings.

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“Vicky is the most high profile of the players off the bench because she has shot the ball very well from 3-point range early in the season,” Simpson said. “She\’s a probably our best natural rebounder and has really improved her defense this year.”

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Lauren Juric, Hannah Stephens and Blair Shinoda are also contributing in a big-time way.

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“Lauren is playing terrific basketball lately and she is quite possibly our smartest player,” Simpson said. “And that is a huge compliment because we have some pretty savvy players.

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“Hannah Stephens is probably our best individual defender … and Blair Shinoda has shown the ability to score off the dribble. Lately, Blair has become a force at the top of our zone (defense). When she gets after it, she reminds a lot of (2009-10 Big West Defensive Player of the Year) Haylee Donaghe with her long arms and quickness.”

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The stellar crew heads to San Jose tonight to matchup with the Spartans. SJSU is also 10 games in and it is a safe bet that Pam DeCosta is not as pleased with her team\’s start as Simpson is with his squad. The Spartans are still looking for their first win. Tip-off on Walt McPherson Court at The Events Center is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game can be heard on KDVS (90.3 FM).

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— Reach Chris Saur at [email protected] or (530) 747-8047. Comment on this story at www.davisenterprise.com

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