SALT LAKE CITY - Sophomore Morgan Bertsch finished with a game-high 23 points and a career-high six of UC Davis' school single-game record 12 blocks on Friday night, lifting the visiting Aggies to their first-ever Division I postseason win, 72-62, over Utah in the first round of the 2017 Women's National Invitation Tournament at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City.
Thanks to its 11th win in its last 12 games, UC Davis improved to 24-7 overall and advances to face Colorado State on Sunday (March 19) at 1 p.m. PT in Fort Collins, Colo. Visit www.csurams.com for more game information, including tickets and live links for the second-round game at Colorado State.
The Utes, led by 19 points from Tanaeya Boclair, finished their season at 16-15 overall.
"I'm really proud of our group," Head Coach Jennifer Gross said. "We had to get over that loss from last week (at the Big West Conference Tournament) and it's not an easy thing to do when you have your heart set on something. I thought we did a tremendous job of bouncing back, refocusing, and setting some new goals for ourselves. To come out here and beat a Pac-12 team on their home court is a huge accomplishment."
The 12 blocks surpassed the former record of 10 set against Humboldt State on Feb. 18, 1995, while Bertsch's six was just one shy of the single-game record shared by Janae Henning (at San Francisco State in 2001) and Paige Mintun (vs. Pacific in 2011). The total brought the Santa Rosa, Calif., native's season total to 55 -- placing her just one block back of Mintun's single-season record set in 2010-11.
Bertsch added seven rebounds to her game-high totals, hitting 10-of-22 from the floor en route to her 10th consecutive double-digit performance. With her 23 points, Bertsch now has 514 points on the year, making her the highest scoring sophomore in school history, passing Sydnee Fipps' 512 points in 2012-13, and moving her into fourth place on the school's single-season list -- just 34 points back of Fipps' 2013-14 total.
Junior Rachel Nagel added 17 points on 7-of-10 from the floor, adding four rebounds, while junior Marly Anderson came off the bench to finish with 10 points and six rebounds to go along with a career-high five blocks. Bertsch and Pele Gianotti shared team honors with seven rebounds apiece.
UC Davis led wire-to-wire, exploding out of the gates with 12-0 run to start the game and holding its hosts to without a point until Boclair stopped the bleeding with a basket inside with three minutes already gone in the first quarter. The Aggies pushed their lead out to as many as 17 points at 22-5 with 3:09 remaining in the opening period and led by double digits after one.
"We talked about focusing a lot on the defensive end first and, I thought, we got a couple stops and it gave us an opportunity to run in transition," Gross said. "Kourtney was feeling it early, knocking down a couple three's, but when we can grab the ball off the glass and run, we make great decisions in transition and it gives us a really good flow offensively."
The Utes continued to chip away, whittling the deficit back to within single digits and coming as close as six points at 36-30 with 33 seconds to play in the half, but a pair of quick baskets right before the buzzer rebuilt the lead to 10 as Nagel drove baseline to lay one in and then wrapped up the Utah inbound pass before shoveling it to a waiting Pele Gianotti for the basket right before the horn for a, 40-30, lead at the break.
Just as the Aggies came out to start the game, Utah did the same out of the locker room after halftime, using a 13-4 run over the first five minutes to nearly erase the UC Davis advantage, making it a one-point game, 44-43, with 5:12 to play. However, a put-back by Song off a Bertsch miss led to an "and one," and Bertsch added a basket and one from the line to push the lead back out to seven and the Aggies held off the Utes from there.
Utah climbed back to within three points twice in the final two minutes of the quarter, but a basket by Bertsch and Anderson's second three-pointer of the season as time expired gave UC Davis an eight-point lead -- an advantage that grew to as many as 12 points in the finale quarter en route to the win. The Utes never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.
Sophomore Kourtney Eaton finished with eight points, five rebounds, and five assists -- the latter giving her 130 for the season which moves her into a tie for sixth in school history, just two back of her head coach, Jennifer Gross, and Jackie Turpin for fourth. Eaton's season total also matches teammate Dani Nafekh's Division I Era single-season record set just last year.
UC Davis shot just under 46 percent from the floor in the win, holding Utah to just 35 percent for the game, including a 4-for-21 performance from long-distance.
UC DAVIS 72, UTAH 62
UC DAVIS (24-7, 14-2)
Bertsch, Morgan 10-22 3-6 23; Nagel, Rachel 7-10 2-3 17; Anderson, Marly 3-8 3-4 10; Eaton, Kourtney 3-4 0-0 8; Nafekh, Dani 1-4 2-2 4; Gianotti, Pele 1-9 2-4 4; Bessolo, Nina 1-1 0-0 3; Song, Sophia 1-1 1-1 3; Eaton, Karley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-59 13-20 72.
UTAH (16-15, 5-13)
Boclair, Tanaeya 8-14 2-3 19; Nawahine, Malia 6-13 2-5 15; Potter, Emily 6-15 1-2 13; Crozon, Paige 2-10 3-4 8; Jacobs, Megan 1-5 0-0 3; Provo, Daneesha 1-4 0-0 2; Moore, Kiana 1-6 0-0 2; Clark, Tilar 0-3 0-2 0; Bean, Erika 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 25-72 8-16 62.
UC Davis...................... 24 16 17 15 - 72
Utah.......................... 12 18 19 13 - 62
3-point goals--UC Davis 5-12 (Eaton, Kourtney 2-2; Nagel, Rachel 1-2; Bessolo, Nina 1-1; Anderson, Marly 1-1; Gianotti, Pele 0-4; Nafekh, Dani 0-2), Utah 4-21 (Jacobs, Megan 1-3; Crozon, Paige 1-8; Boclair, Tanaeya 1-2; Nawahine, Malia 1-5; Moore, Kiana 0-1; Provo, Daneesha 0-2). Fouled out--UC Davis-None, Utah-Potter, Emily; Jacobs, Megan. Rebounds-UC Davis 42 (Eaton, Kourtney 7; Bertsch, Morgan 7), Utah 43 (Potter, Emily 9). Assists--UC Davis 14 (Eaton, Kourtney 5), Utah 13 (Bean, Erika 7). Total fouls--UC Davis 17, Utah 17. Technical fouls--UC Davis-None, Utah-None. A-456
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(Friday: 12 p.m.; ESPN3)