March 12, 2011
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Paige Mintun scored a game-high tying 20 points and Vicky Deely canned four three-pointers and added 12 as fourth-seeded UC Davis beat top-seeded Cal Poly 66-49 on Saturday afternoon at Honda Center, claiming the program's first-ever Big West Women's Basketball Tournament championship and earning its first bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Mintun added five rebounds and a blocked shot while Deely was 4 of 7 from beyond the arc. Heidi Heintz scored 11 points, just missing a double-double with nine rebounds. Rachel Clancy had four treys and scored 20 points for Cal Poly which was also trying for its first bid to the NCAA Tournament.
UC Davis won its season-best sixth straight game, improving to 24-8 overall. Cal Poly, which will move on to the Women's National Invitational Tournament (WNIT), is 19-12. Mintun was named the tournament's MVP while Heintz joined her on the all-tournament team.
The Aggies will now play in the NCAA Tournament which begins next weekend. The 64-team field will be announced on Monday afternoon at 4 p.m. on ESPN.
"We'd played in this game in two of the previous three years and I was nervous," said head coach Sandy Simpson. "Last night I'm pretty sure I slept at some point but I kept thinking, we're peaking. Paige is playing very well, Heidi is playing well and we're healthy. I just don't want to screw it up.
" I was still pretty nervous before the start of the game but when we got into it, it was just about coaching," he said.
UC Davis, which struggled offensively during Friday's 44-39 semifinal win over UC Riverside, was effective on both ends of the floor during the championship game's first half, especially in the early going when the Aggies jumped out to a 9-2 lead after just five minutes.
Mintun's free throw two minutes later pushed the lead to 14-4 and it eventually reached 21-9 midway through the half after another bucket from Mintun. The opening-half advantage hit its pinnacle at 35-19 before the Mustangs got within 35-22 at halftime.
UC Davis, which shot just 22.2 percent in the first half on Friday, hit 48.1 percent of its tries during the same time frame on Saturday. Mintun had 11 points before the break, making 5 of 8 shots.
The defense, meanwhile, held Cal Poly - the Big West's regular-season champion - to just 33.3 percent shooting in the first half. Clancy, the Big West Player of the Year, was just 3 of 11 and had eight points.
The Mustangs, however, rallied in the second half, getting five quick points from Clancy to help them score eight of the first nine points to cut the lead to just 36-30 less than four minutes in.
Clancy's trey with 15:22 left cut the Aggie lead to just 38-33 but UC Davis scored the next six points - all from the free throw line - to rebuild the lead to 44-33 four minutes later.
UC Davis was in front 44-37 but used a 12-0 run to make it 56-37 with 6 minutes remaining. Deely had a three-pointer and Heintz scored five, including a three-point play, to help key the decisive surge. Cal Poly didn't get closer than 11 points the rest of the way.
"It feels so good to reach our goals," Mintun said. "Every team has goals at the preseason meeting. This was going to be our last time and we wanted to send coach off on a high note."
Simpson announced prior to the season he would be retiring from coaching at the end of the season.
"The game today I think was won with their tremendous defensive effort that they put in that created a cushion which was somewhat difficult for us to overcome," said Cal Poly head coach Faith Mimnaugh. "The effort that our team made was amazing. We just needed a little bit more scoring."
Mimnaugh said UC Davis was a deserving winner.
"I want to extend congratulations to UC Davis and what a fine basketball club they have," she said. "I think they are going to represent the Big West Conference with great ability and we have great pride in them going forth and representing our conference."
While Heintz and Mintun were excited Simpson was able to lead a team to the NCAA Tournament in his final season, the coach was equally excited for his seniors.
"I'm really happy for us but I'm especially happy for Paige and Heidi," he said. "They have no idea what next week has in store for them. This is the best possible gift for two fifth-year seniors."
UC Davis also was effective from the charity stripe, making 23 of 26.
UC Davis is the first team other than UC Santa Barbara or UC Riverside to win the Big West Tournament title since Hawai'i beat Pacific in 1996.
FANS NOTE: UC Davis is scheduled to arrive back at Hickey Gym on campus at approzimately 9 p.m. Fans are encouraged to help greet their arrival.