Assumptions are tricky things.
Some people may assume that UC Davis women’s basketball head coach Jen Gross is an offense-minded leader, especially since she brought in an up-tempo offense when she was hired as an assistant in 2004.
But Gross, who dominated the hardwood in UCD’s Recreation Hall from 1993 to 1997 as the lead attacker in the “Jaws” defense, knows better.
“I think it’s funny that when I got here I was in charge of the offense and implemented the Princeton offense,” said Gross, whose squad is 6-2 in preseason competition. “People could assume that I was offensive-minded. But if you ask me if I’m offense- or defense-minded, without hesitation, I’d say defense.
“Defense is how you win games,” she added.
Gross is no stranger to defense or winning. She played 119 consecutive games for UCD, a team record, and is the most-winning female Aggie basketball player with 101 wins. During her career, she dished out 448 assists (UCD record), grabbed 300 steals and sank 163 3-pointers. Her steals and 3-pointers made also were UCD records until broken by Karyn Castro (303 steals) and Lori Hurlbut (194 treys).
While Gross has turned in her high-tops for a clipboard and the Aggies’ defense is now called “Buzz,” it’s still pretty much business as usual in The Pavilion.
“The half-court traps are what we’ve been running here for years,” she said. “We take a lot of pride in our offense as well. We’ve had success with being a little different.”
The 2011-12 version of the Aggies has stepped up the attack as Gross has stepped full-on into the role as head coach. Last year as an assistant coach, Gross was given more duties with the offense under head coach Sandy Simpson, who worked more with the defense. Now that Simpson has retired, the buck stops fully with Gross.
“The fun part is all assistant coaches are very willing to collaborate,” Gross said. “They are constantly giving feedback. But in the game, I ultimately make the final decision.”
Gross is assisted by Joe Teramoto, former Aggie teammate Des Abeyta and Matt Klemin.
UCD opened this season with a five-game win streak before falling to Northern California powerhouses Santa Clara and Stanford. The Aggies regrouped to beat Causeway rival Sacramento State 68-57 on Sunday.
In their eight games, the Aggies’ aggressive play has netted them 94 steals and forced 162 turnovers.
“A majority of our steals are coming from trapping. We play with lots of energy and excitement and create a frenzied atmosphere,” Gross said. “It can cause panic in our opponents.
“Turnovers can create offense on the other side,” she added. “We work hard to build the pressure and keep our energy up.”
The one area where the Aggies are currently lacking would be in rebounding, especially with Lauren Juric (6-foot-2) and Kelsey Beard (6-3) sidelined with injuries and Lauren Beyer (6-1) out for the season. UCD averages more than 10 fewer rebounds than its opponents. Once back on the court, Juric and Beard will give the Aggies height and a stronger presence inside.
“Part of that (difference in rebounds) is the defense we play and part of it is being undersized,” Gross said. “However, we are focusing on not making excuses. We could attribute (the low numbers) to many things, but we’re working on blocking out, regardless of size.
“The biggest thing for us is not to let it be an excuse,” she added. “We are who we are.”