Aggies put Big West streak on the line against UC Riverside

Jan. 10, 2018

UC Riverside (4-12, 1-1 Big West) at UC Davis (12-3, 2-0 Big West)
Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 | 7:00 p.m. | The Pavilion | Davis, Calif.
RADIO: KDVS 90.3 FM (PBP: Greg Wong… ANALYST: Max Agress)
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TIP-OFF: Following a three-week span that saw the Aggies cover nearly 8,000 round-trip miles during a four-game road trip, the UC Davis women’s basketball team finally gets a break, hosting UC Riverside on Thursday night (Jan. 11) in its only contest of the week at The Pavilion. Tip off at Bob Hamilton Court is scheduled for 7 p.m.

AGGIES BACK AMONG THE TOP 10 IN MID-MAJOR POLL: A 2-0 start in Big West Conference play has the Aggies back in the Mid-Major top 10 poll, leapfrogging two spots to No. 10 according to the latest poll released on Tuesday (Jan. 9). It marks the sixth week that the Aggies will be ranked among the top 10 mid-major programs in the country, reaching as high as No. 5 in back-to-back weeks on Dec. 12 and Dec. 19. UC Davis has been ranked among the top 25 of the College Insider poll every week this season, debuting at No. 20 in the preseason poll and opening a run of five consecutive weeks in the top 10 on Nov. 28.

Tracking the Aggies in the poll
Preseason - No. 20
Nov. 14 - No. 17
Nov. 21 - No. 11
Nov. 28 - No. 8
Dec. 5 - No. 8
Dec. 12 - No. 5
Dec. 19 - No. 5
Dec. 26 - No. 7
Jan. 2 - No. 12
Jan. 9 - No. 10

AGGIES PACE BIG WEST IN THE RPI: After reaching as high as No. 42 in the nation in the RPI at one point this season, the Aggies continue to pace their Big West sistren as of Jan. 8, ranking 58th in the RPI following a 2-0 start to conference play, standing as the only Big West team in the top 100 thus far (Hawai’i is second at No. 203). The No. 42 ranking this season was the highest that UC Davis had been ranked in the RPI dating back to Dec. 29, when the Aggies stood 40th in the nation.

BRACKETOLOGY: In his first bracketology projection of 2018, ESPN’s Charlie Creme has the Aggies carrying the Big West banner into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 14 seed, matched-up with No. 3 UCLA in the opening round, joined by No. 6 Rutgers and No. 11 Northern Colorado in Los Angeles. The Bruins are currently ranked No. 14 in the country according to both the Associated Press and USA Today polls, with the Scarlet Knights ranked as high as No. 19. The Bears are gaining traction at No. 14 in the College Insider poll, just four spots back of UC Davis this week.

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IT’S A START: The only Big West school with double digits in the win column (CSUN and UC Irvine are next with eight apiece), UC Davis heads into the second weekend of conference play with 12 victories already this season -- the most through the first 15 games of the season since the Aggies were 12-3 to start the 2010-11 campaign.

START "BIG": UC Davis’ wins over UC Irvine and Hawai’i put the Aggies at 2-0 in Big West Conference play for the third consecutive season.

WINNING BIG IN THE BIG WEST: UC Davis has won its last 12 consecutive games against league foes -- and seven straight at home -- dating back to a, 64-62, decision at Long Beach State on Jan. 21, 2016 -- one of only two conference defeats suffered by the Aggies during last year’s campaign. UC Davis is averaging 67.8 ppg and shooting 45 percent from the field overall in that stretch, holding opponents to just 54.7 ppg and 38 percent from the floor.

SCOUTING UC RIVERSIDE: The Highlanders enter the week with a 4-12 overall record and a 1-1 mark in Big West play after splitting last week’s openers against Cal Poly (L, 87-82) and Long Beach State (W, 77-53)... The win over the 49ers snapped a five-game skid for Riverside, which hadn’t won since a three-point victory over CSU Bakersfield on Dec. 6... UCR is just 1-6 away from home this year, season, having lost five straight since a, 68-56, win at Fresno State on Nov. 19... The senior tandem of Michelle Curry and Lauren Holt are both in double figures thus far this season, averaging 15.0 ppg and 12.4 ppg, respectively, while sophomore Skyler Lewis leads the way on the boards with 7.8 caroms per contest... The Highlanders are averaging 64.1 ppg and shooting .394 from the floor, while opponents are scoring at a 74.0 points per game clip and shooting .412 against the UCR defense.

SERIES NOTES: According to records that date back to the 1971-72 season, UC Davis leads the all-time series with UC Riverside, 35-23... The Aggies have won the last three straight in the series -- and 11 of the last 14 overall -- after sweeping both regular season meetings last year by the scores of 72-55 at home, and 61-59 in Riverside... UC Davis is 15-8 against the Highlanders at home, winning five of the last six, with the locations of two of the games early in the overall series unknown.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A POINT MAKES: UC Davis is a perfect 11-0 this season when scoring 70 points or more, but is just 1-3 when limited to 69-or-fewer. The Aggies’ only victory when held to under 70 points came back on Nov. 12, when they posted a, 69-64, win against Pepperdine.

DE-FENSE (CLAP, CLAP): The UC Davis defense held host UC Irvine to just 33 percent from the floor for the game then, two days later, limited visiting Hawai’i to just 31 percent from the field -- the 10th and 11th teams held to 38 percent or lower by the Aggies this season. Only four opponents (Washington State, Portland State, UCF, and Fordham) have shot higher than that mark as UC Davis enters the week leading the Big West in scoring defense (61.8 ppg), field goal percentage defense (.357), and three-point percentage defense (.300).

MEANWHILE, AT THE OTHER END: UC Davis shot better than 50 percent from the floor in each of its wins over the Anteaters and Rainbow Wahine -- the fourth and fifth times this season that the Aggies have made better than half their shots from the field in 2017-18. The .558 (29-for-52) against Hawai’i on Jan. 6 is the second-best shooting performance of the season, trailing only the .569 at Saint Mary’s on Dec. 9.

MOVIN’ ON UP: Thanks to her 45 points in two wins last week, junior biomedical engineering major Morgan Bertsch jumped three spots into sole possession of No. 7 on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,273 career points to her name. The Santa Rosa, Calif., native needs just 35 more to match former teammate Alyson Doherty (1,308) for sixth, and 110 to pass Paige Mintun (1,382) for a spot in the top five.

ALSO KEEP AN EYE ON: Senior political science major Pele Gianotti is also closing in on the 1,000 career point milestone, entering this week’s game against UC Riverside needing just 21 more to become the 19th player in the history of the program to reach the mark. Should she do so, Gianotti and Bertsch would become the first teammates to reach 1,000 career points in the same season since Sarah Allen and Colleen Turnbull did so in 2002-03, and only the third combination after Kari Sivesind and Kendall Greene did so in 1995-96.

BOARDING TOWARD A BENCHMARK: Speaking of Gianotti, the Myrtle Creek, Ore., native became just the fifth player in the program’s Division I history to reach 500 career rebounds with her nine boards at UC Irvine on Jan. 4. Should she add the 1,000 career point milestone this year, Gianotti would become only the fourth player in the program’s Division I history to hit 1,000 career points and grab 500 career rebounds, joining Alyson Doherty (2012-16), Paige Mintun (2007-11), and Sydnee Fipps (2011-15).

QUEENS OF THE QUARTER: Gianotti’s 10 points in the fourth quarter at UC Irvine and Bertsch’s 10 points in the third against Hawai’i marked the 11th and 12th times this season that an Aggie has finished with double-digit points in a single quarter this season -- nine of those from Bertsch alone. Senior psychology major Rachel Nagel, who scored 11 points in the third quarter against Portland State on Nov. 17, is the only other UC Davis player to accomplish the feat, which has happened in the second half seven times this season. Since the NCAA went to four quarters during the 2015-16 season, Gianotti holds the program record for points in a quarter with 13 in the fourth against Cal Poly on Feb. 22, 2017.

SPEAKING OF QUARTERS: The 29-point fourth quarter en route to a nine-point win at UC Irvine on Jan. 4 was the highest scoring quarter of the year for the Aggies, surpassing the 28 points scored in the second quarter against Washington State in the season opener on Nov. 10. The 25-point first quarter against Hawai’i matched a season high in that period set at Pacific (Nov. 20) and against Yale (Dec. 28), while the four points scored in the third quarter against the Anteaters were the fewest in any quarter since the NCAA returned to the four-quarter format in 2015-16.

DECK THE "HALL"S: The holiday season has been good for UC Davis freshman Cierra Hall, who has been on a tear offensively since the Aggies’ post-Christmas trip to New York. Over her last four games, the cell biology major from Cypress, Calif., is averaging 10.8 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, collecting double figures in three of her last four contests, while shooting 60 percent (15-for-25) from the field.

MORE MARLY: Reaching double figures for the first time this season, senior design major Marly Anderson narrowly missed her first double-double of the year in Saturday’s win over Hawai’i, finishing with 13 points and nine rebounds, while hitting all six of her shots (including her second three-pointer of the year) from the field. The point total was one more than she had in her previous four games combined and represented her highest scoring total since she finished with 14 at UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 4 of last year.

DOUBLE-DIGIT DAMAGE: After tying the school’s Division I single-season record with 29 games with 10-or-more points last season, Bertsch is back at it again with 15 such performances in the Aggies’ first 15 games -- giving her 65 for her career and solidifying her hold on fourth place on the school’s Division I career list, just six back of Paige Mintun. Teammates Pele Gianotti (49) and Rachel Nagel (36) also rank sixth and seventh, respectively, on that same career list, all chasing record-holder Sydnee Fipps, who collected 80 career games with double digits in the scoring column from 2011-15.

MISS CONSISTENTCY: Bertsch’s 15 consecutive double-digit scoring performances to start this season rank as the fourth-longest such streak in the program’s Division I history -- and the ninth of 10 games or longer in that stretch. The biomedical engineering major from Santa Rosa, Calif., holds the program’s Division I record with 23 consecutive double-digit scoring games over parts of two seasons from Feb. 18, 2016, to Jan. 5, 2017.

‘TIS THE SEASON OF GIVING: UC Davis has been the queens of making the extra pass this season, entering the week ranked No. 16 in the nation in assists per game (18.3 apg) and No. 30 in overall assists (274), while ranking No. 33 in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.22). Meanwhile, Kourtney Eaton enters the week ranked No. 56 in the nation in assists per game (5.1), No. 54 in total assists (76), and No. 58 in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.24).

MAKING GOOD ON THOSE PASSES: A good number of those assists this season have been thanks to the reliable hands of Bertsch, who enters the week ranked tied for No. 5 in the NCAA in made baskets with 136, trailing Iowa’s Megan Gustafson and Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell, who pace the nation with 150 makes from the floor. The junior from Santa Rosa, Calif., also ranks among the top 50 in the nation in points (No. 36) and points per game (No. 26), while standing No. 42 in field goal percentage.

I’M COMING FOR YOU, COACH!: With her six assists last week at UC Irvine, junior psychology major Kourtney Eaton moved past Karyn Castro (1995-99) into sixth on the school’s all-time list with 331, placing her just eight back of Laura Manning (1985-89) for fifth entering this week’s contest. Eaton, who put up 142 assists last season to rank second on the school’s single-season list, is just 117 helpers behind her head coach, Jennifer Gross, who holds the school career mark with 448 assists from 1993-97.

THREEE-CO-LA!: The Aggies enter the week with four of the league’s top six three-point shooters and still stand among the best in the nation from long distance, ranking No. 34 in the NCAA in three-pointers per game (8.5), No. 7 in three-point percentage (.401), and No. 35 in total three’s made (128). Sophomore Nina Bessolo (.455) leads the Big West from beyond the arc, with seniors Rachel Nagel (.417), Dani Nafekh (.414), and Pele Gianotti (.411), holding down the 3-5 spots.

CENTURY MARK: Already the fifth Aggie to reach the century mark in career blocks at Seattle on Nov. 26, Bertsch’s performance in New York, gave her 116 for her career, solidifying her hold on fourth place on the school’s all-time list. Bertsch, who set the school single-season record with 57 swats last season, needs just three more to match Kendall Greene (1992-96) for third and is well-within striking distance of career record holder Paige Mintun (2006-11) and her 150 blocks.

SWAT TEAM: Just one year after setting the school’s single-season record with 129 team blocks, the Aggies have picked up right where they left off, ranking second in the Big West entering the week at 4.4 bpg, while collecting at least four blocks for the 11th time in 15 games against Hawai’i on Jan. 6. UC Davis is nearly halfway to last year’s total with 66 swats thus far this season, paced by Bertsch’s 23 and 16 more from senior design major Marly Anderson.