DAVIS, Calif. -- Senior Dani Nafekh finished with a game-high 17 points to lead three Aggies in double figures, and UC Davis clinched its second consecutive Big West Conference title and, with it, the top seed in the league tournament, following a, 66-56, victory over UC Irvine on Saturday afternoon at The Pavilion.
UC Davis, which also earned the league's automatic berth into the Women's National Invitation Tournament with the regular season crown, improved to 23-4 overall and 13-1 in Big West play, setting the program's Division I record for home victories with 13 and clinching its 14th consecutive home win over a conference opponent in the process. The Aggies have earned a double bye into the semifinals of the Big West Tournament and will play the lowest remaining seed following the first two rounds on March 9 at Noon at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
Led by 10 points and nine rebounds from Jordan Sanders, the Anteaters fell to 17-11 overall and 9-5 in league play, limited to just 33 percent shooting from the floor and held to just six points in the first quarter -- tied for the fewest allowed by the UC Davis defense in any quarter this season.
Playing in front of the hometown faithful for the final time this season, Nafekh finished 7-of-13 from the field en route to her game-high total in 28 minutes, adding three rebounds, two assists, and a pair of steals. Classmate Pele Gianotti added 11 points and a team-high seven rebounds, while junior Morgan Bertsch completed her 27th consecutive double-digit scoring performance, adding 10 points in 19 minutes.
The Aggies put the game away early, opening the contest by scoring the first 15 points and leading by 14 at the end of the first 10-minute period, 20-6, shooting 57 percent from the field and holding UC Irvine to just 3-of-22 in the process, finally getting on the board with a basket inside by Sanders with 4:29 remaining in the quarter.
UC Davis kept up the pressure, shooting just under 70 percent in the quarter, but the Anteaters found their stroke as well, hitting 7-of-9 (.778) themselves, but still found themselves trailing by 15 at the break after the Aggies finished the half with the final seven points.
The two teams traded baskets to start the third quarter before Irvine was able to put together a brief 7-0 run to reel UC Davis back to within single digits, but a three-pointer by Kourtney Eaton sparked an 11-2 run but the Aggies, giving them their largest lead of the game with just over a minute to play in the period and they were off to the races, leading by double digits for most of the fourth quarter with the Anteaters coming no closer than eight the rest of the way.
Kourtney Eaton finished with seven assists to give her 121 on the year to move into third place on the school's Division I single-season list, and 376 for her career, putting her just 20 back of Sara Lillevand for second place. Today's game also marked the 123rd career appearance for Gianotti, who tied Samantha Meggison (2008-12) for the most in the history of the program.
UC Davis closes out the regular season on the road in Southern California next week, taking on Cal State Fullerton on Thursday (March 1) at 7 p.m., before meeting UC Riverside in the regular season finale on Saturday (March 3) at 4 p.m.
UC DAVIS 66, UC IRVINE 56
UC IRVINE (17-11, 9-5, BWC)
Sanders, Jordan 3-11 4-6 10; Baumgartner, Autumn 3-11 1-3 9; Saiki, Lauren 3-6 0-2 7; Ritter, Andee 3-10 0-0 7; Talbert, Haleigh 2-7 1-2 6; Sa'Dullah, Yazzy 0-2 4-4 4; Garza, Tahlia 2-3 0-0 4; Guglielmo, Dani 1-2 0-0 3; Engelstad, Sabrina 1-6 0-0 2; Bayman, Brooke 1-1 0-0 2; Seaton, Alexus 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 20-60 10-17 56.
UC DAVIS (23-4, 13-1 BWC)
Nafekh, Dani 7-13 0-0 17; Gianotti, Pele 5-9 0-0 11; Bertsch, Morgan 4-9 2-4 10; Hall, Cierra 3-5 3-4 9; Eaton, Kourtney 2-5 0-0 6; Anderson, Marly 2-4 0-0 5; Bessolo, Nina 1-2 2-2 5; Song, Sophia 1-2 0-0 2; Nagel, Rachel 0-0 1-2 1; Eaton, Karley 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-50 8-12 66.
UC Irvine..................... 6 19 14 17 - 56
UC Davis...................... 20 20 16 10 - 66
3-point goals--UC Irvine 6-19 (Baumgartner, Autumn 2-7; Ritter, Andee 1-2; Saiki, Lauren 1-3; Guglielmo, Dani 1-2; Talbert, Haleigh 1-3; Sa'Dullah, Yazzy 0-2), UC Davis 8-21 (Nafekh, Dani 3-7; Eaton, Kourtney 2-4; Gianotti, Pele 1-5; Anderson, Marly 1-2; Bessolo, Nina 1-2; Eaton, Karley 0-1). Fouled out--UC Irvine-None, UC Davis-None. Rebounds--UC Irvine 37 (Sanders, Jordan 9), UC Davis 31 (Gianotti, Pele 7). Assists--UC Irvine 9 (Talbert, Haleigh 3), UC Davis 16 (Eaton, Kourtney 7). Total fouls--UC Irvine 17, UC Davis 17. Technical fouls--UC Irvine-None, UC Davis-None.
SAAC COIN DRIVE
Support the UC Davis Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and the Yolo County SPCA during the month of February as the Aggies hold their 11th annual coin drive at all home events. For the fourth year in a row, Big West Conference institutions will donate 100 percent of the funds raised to their designated charities, with the top three fundraising SAAC's receiving a cash prize toward their SAAC budget. Over the last 10 years, conference members have combined to raise nearly $197,000.
ABOUT UC DAVIS
Providing a small-town community feel while providing a world-class academic experience, UC Davis is home to more than 37,000 students and centrally located between San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and the Napa Valley. The No. 6-ranked public university in the nation according to the Wall Street Journal, and among the top 10 public universities nationwide according to U.S. News and World Report, UC Davis offers nearly 100 graduate programs and more than 100 academic majors across four colleges and six professional schools, ranking among the world and nation's best in numerous disciplines, including veterinary science, agriculture, and plant and animal programs.
PACK THE PAVILION!
Season and single-game tickets for UC Davis men's and women's basketball are now on sale by contacting the Athletics Ticket Office at (530) 752-AGS1 or by visiting us online at UCDavisAggies.com.