March 11, 2011
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Paige Mintun scored a game-high 15 points and UC Davis used a late 8-0 run to take an eight-point lead as the Aggie women's basketball team advanced to its third ampm Big West Tournament final in the past four years with a hard-fought 44-39 win over UC Riverside on Friday afternoon at Honda Center.
The victory propels fourth-seeded UC Davis into Saturday's championship against top-seeded Cal Poly which earlier Friday beat Pacific 70-55. The Aggies improved to 23-8 overall while the Mustangs, who split two games with UC Davis this season, are 18-11.
Tipoff for Saturday's game is set for 1 p.m. and will be televised on FSN Prime Ticket.
The Aggies are in the Big West Tournament final for the third time since moving to NCAA Division I status in 2007-08 but are looking for their first championship. They lost to UC Santa Barbara in their inaugural appearance in 2008 before dropping a close 71-67 decision to UC Riverside last year.
Saturday's winner will receive an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament which begins next week.
UC Riverside, led by 13 points from Brittany Waddell and 12 from Tre'Shonti Nottingham, finished its season 19-12.
UC Davis was able to avenge two earlier losses this season to UC Riverside but needed a strong defensive effort to overcome good defense from the Highlanders. The Aggies shot just 29.6 percent from the field but benefitted from 26 turnovers by the Highlanders.
"Both teams were dedicated to defense today," said UC Davis head coach Sandy Simpson. "It was 40 minutes all out. We had to scratch and claw for not only every basket but for every shot as well.
"UC Riverside does a great job of pressuring you," he added. "They are so difficult to play against. I was never comfortable in this game. But we played consistent throughout the game. The rivalry between UC Davis and UC Riverside is extraordinary. I'm proud of our team."
The Aggies made just 6 of 27 shots (22.2 percent) in the first half but despite early shooting struggles still led 7-5 midway through the first half. But Tre'Shonti Nottingham hit a layup to start a 13-0 run that put the Highlanders in front 18-7, the first of two 11-point leads before halftime for the Highlanders.
Kasey Riecks, though, had a three-pointer from the right wing, Heidi Heintz drove to the hoop for a layup and the Aggies managed to only go into intermission down 20-15. UC Riverside was slowed by 18 turnovers before the break.
Hana Asano hit an early jumper in the second half to bring the Aggies within 20-17 but back-to-back treys from Alyssa Morris and Nottingham helped the Highlanders lead 26-19 two minutes in.
Lauren Juric's layup later capped five straight points for UC Davis, making it 30-30 with 13:04 to go, the first of three second-half ties. Brianna Salvatorre's layup broke the final one at 34-34, starting a game-deciding 8-0 run that pushed UC Davis in an eight-point advantage.
Vicky Deely had a pair of free throws, Heintz hit a bank shot for a 40-34 advantage and Asano capped the run with a jumper to make it 42-34 with 1:40 to go.
Heintz made a pair of free throws with 48 seconds to go, giving UC Davis a 44-37 and helping it hold off the defending champions.
"The last couple of games we have played well together," said Asano. "We've been jelling. The tournament brings an atmosphere where we feed off each other."
The Aggies' 44 points were their second-lowest of the season while the were also the lowest winning total since beating UC San Diego 40-22 during the 1975-76 season.