SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Sophomore Morgan Bertsch scored 18 of her game-high 20 points in the second half, leading two teammates in double figures and helping power UC Davis to its third straight victory, a 61-53 triumph over host Cal Poly on Thursday night at the Mott Athletic Center in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Winning for the seventh time in their last nine contests overall, the Aggies improved to 16-6 overall and 7-2 in Big West Conference play, claiming their third consecutive win in the series with the Mustangs. Cal Poly fell to 7-13 overall and 3-5 in league play, losing its fifth in the last six outings.
"That was a hard-fought win," Head Coach Jennifer Gross said. "Cal Poly is a very, very good basketball team. They have a lot of weapons and I felt like we had to come up with plays at various times throughout the game and we had different people who stepped up and did that."
Held to only two points and three field goal attempts in the first half, Bertsch exploded in the second half, scoring seven points in the third and 11 more in the fourth -- including 7-of-8 from the line down the stretch to help her team hold off the Mustangs. It was the sixth 20-point game of the season for the Santa Rosa, Calif., native and the 16th of her career, adding five rebounds and three steals in only 23 minutes.
"(Morgan) was a little frustrated early on with her fouls and we just told her to keep doing what she does, stay aggressive, be physical, attack the basket," Gross said. "I'm really proud of her. She came out in the second half with a different mindset, and she really carried us in that second half."
Junior Pele Gianotti scored 11 of her 13 points in the first half to guide the Aggies to an eight-point advantage at the break, shooting 6-of-12 from the floor and adding a team-high eight rebounds. She shared team honors on the glass with classmate Rachel Nagel, who added 12 points and eight boards to go along with three steals, and nailed a pair of free throws that turned a five-point game into a three possession contest with 28 seconds to play.
The Aggies led wire-to-wire, save for the first 12 seconds of the game when both teams were scoreless, opening the contest on a 6-0 run over the first minute and a half, but it was only a three-point lead with two minutes gone in the third quarter as a 7-0 burst by the Mustangs nearly wiped out a 10-point advantage.
Cal Poly's deficit was the same at the 6:31 mark in the period before a 10-4 burst to finish the third put UC Davis up nine and the Aggies held on from there. A driving lay-up by Kourtney Eaton put her team ahead, 52-41, with 5:43 to play, tying the team's largest advantage of the game, but the Mustangs would not wilt.
A basket inside by Hannah Gilbert and a jumper by Breezi Holt made it a five-point UC Davis lead with 1:59 to play, but the Aggies shook off their free throw woes from earlier in the game to hit 6-of-6 down the stretch -- four of those by Bertsch -- to ice the game.
The Big West leader in field goal percentage, UC Davis shot just under 38 percent from the field for the game, but it was enough to hold off Cal Poly, which was held to just 34 percent overall, including a 24 percent clip to start the game.
Gilbert finished with a game-high 13 rebounds to help the Mustangs to a, 46-37, advantage on the glass, including six of her team's 14 offensive rebounds, but Cal Poly was unable to take advantage of second and third opportunities, scoring just four second-chance points.
Meanwhile, the Aggie defense finished with a season-high 18 steals -- the most for UC Davis since it swiped 18 against Akron on Nov. 30, 2013, and just four shy of the Division I single-game record set at CSUN on Feb. 9, 2008. The Aggies forced the Mustangs into 23 turnovers, scoring 21 points for the good, and dominated the paint, 32-16.
UC Davis looks for its fourth straight win on Saturday (Feb. 4) as the Aggies continue down the coast to take on UC Santa Barbara at The Thunderdome. Tip off is scheduled for 2 p.m.
UC DAVIS 61, CAL POLY 53
UC DAVIS (16-6, 7-2 BWC)
Bertsch, Morgan 6-15 8-9 20; Gianotti, Pele 6-12 0-3 13; Nagel, Rachel 3-8 5-7 12; Nafekh, Dani 4-8 0-0 9; Eaton, Kourtney 1-5 2-4 4; Bessolo, Nina 1-2 0-0 3; Anderson, Marly 0-4 0-0 0; Song, Sophia 0-1 0-0 0; Beyer, Lauren 0-0 0-0 0; Eaton, Karley 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-56 15-23 61.
CAL POLY (7-13, 3-5 BWC)
Anderson, Emily 3-8 0-0 9; Holt, Breezi 3-8 0-0 8; Leaupepe, Dynn 3-10 1-2 7; Fausey, Nikki 2-4 2-2 6; Leaupepe, Lynn 3-12 0-0 6; Gilbert, Hannah 3-6 0-0 6; Stahley, Dye 2-5 0-0 4; Evans, Mary Kate 1-3 0-0 3; Nunnelley, Katie 1-1 0-0 2; Lovely, Amanda 1-5 0-0 2; Wong, Kelly 0-0 0-0 0; Smith, Jonni 0-0 0-0 0; Grupalo, Gabby 0-2 0-0 0; Cormier, Zonyia 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-64 3-4 53.
UC Davis...................... 16 16 14 15 - 61
Cal Poly...................... 11 13 13 16 - 53
3-point goals--UC Davis 4-12 (Bessolo, Nina 1-2; Gianotti, Pele 1-4; Nafekh, Dani 1-1; Nagel, Rachel 1-3; Eaton, Kourtney 0-2), Cal Poly 6-24 (Anderson, Emily 3-8; Holt, Breezi 2-3; Evans, Mary Kate 1-2; Leaupepe, Lynn 0-4; Stahley, Dye 0-1; Lovely, Amanda 0-2; Grupalo, Gabby 0-2; Leaupepe, Dynn 0-2). Fouled out--UC Davis-None, Cal Poly-None. Rebounds--UC Davis 37 (Nagel, Rachel 8; Gianotti, Pele 8), Cal Poly 46 (Gilbert, Hannah 13). Assists--UC Davis 12 (Eaton, Kourtney 3; Nafekh, Dani 3), Cal Poly 14 (Stahley, Dye 6). Total fouls--UC Davis 11, Cal Poly 22. Technical fouls--UC Davis-None, Cal Poly-None. A-590