Aggies open Big West Tournament against UCSB

March 9, 2017

GAME 30: #4 UC Santa Barbara (15-15) vs. #1 UC Davis (23-6)
Friday, March 10, 2017
Honda Center (18,336)
Anaheim, Calif.
Game Coverage: Live Stats | Live Video | Live Audio | UC Davis Notes | UCSB Women's Basketball

TIP-OFF: By virtue of its Big West Conference regular season title, the UC Davis women’s basketball team (23-6, 14-2) got a chance to relax and renew itself prior to participating in this year’s Big West Tournament, earning a double bye into the semifinals where it will face No. 4-seeded UC Santa Barbara on Friday (March 10) at Noon at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.

IN THE POLLS: For the fourth consecutive week, UC Davis is ranked among those receiving votes in the latest Mid-Major Poll, picking up three votes this week after claiming the Big West regular season crown. The Aggies have been among that group since Feb. 14, gaining as many as four votes in that span, while picking up a season-high 11 votes back on Jan. 10 after opening conference play with a 2-0 mark.

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GROSS NAMED BIG WEST COACH OF THE YEAR: After leading her team to the conference’s regular season title, a top seed in the Big West Tournament, and an automatic berth in the WNIT, sixth-year Head Coach Jennifer Gross was named the Big West Coach of the Year on Monday for the first time in her career. Gross joins former Aggies’ mentor Sandy Simpson in the league annals as Big West coaches of the year, after Simpson earned the award as the league’s top coach in 2008 and 2010.

AGGIE QUARTET EARNS ALL-BIG WEST HONORS: Sophomore Morgan Bertsch and junior Pele Gianotti were named to the first team, junior Dani Nafekh earned second team honors, while newcomer Nina Bessolo was named to the All-Freshman Team. Bertsch was a member of the second-team and all-freshman squad a year ago, while Gianotti earned honorable mention honors. Nafekh and Bessolo each earned their first all-conference awards. Read the complete release online at:

FIRST!: Bertsch and Gianotti became only the sixth and seventh different Aggies to earn first-team honors since UC Davis joined the Big West in 2007-08, joining the likes of past greats Jessica Campbell, Paige Mintun, Samantha Meggison, Sydnee Fipps, and Alyson Doherty. With their selections in 2017, Bertsch and Gianotti give the Aggies a first-team honoree in every season since joining the league -- the only program in the conference to do so in that span.

THAT’S FRESH: Bessolo’s inclusion on this year’s Big West All-Freshman Team marks the third straight season -- and the seventh time overall -- that UC Davis has had one of the league’s top newcomers. Bessolo joins 2009 Big West Freshman of the Year Lauren Juric, Kasey Riecks (2008-09), Alyson Doherty (2012-13), Molly Greubel (2012-13), Dani Nafekh (2014-15), and Morgan Bertsch (2015-16).

POSTSEASON BOUND: While the goal is to reach the NCAA Tournament, UC Davis has already ensured itself a trip to the postseason thanks to its regular season title, laying claim to the Big West’s automatic berth into the WNIT. In 10 years at the Division I level, the Aggies will be making their fifth postseason appearance and their first since advancing to the WNIT in 2012, falling to Oregon State, 66-48, in the first round. A Big West tournament title, however, would grant UC Davis its second NCAA Tournament berth and its first since 2011 when the Aggies faced off against Bay Area rival Stanford, falling to the Cardinal, 86-59. UC Davis also earned WNIT berths in 2008 (L, 81-60, at Gonzaga) and 2010 (L, 74-69, in overtime at California).

AGGIES IN THE TOURNEY: UC Davis has qualified for the Big West Tournament in every season since becoming a full-fledged member of the league in 2007-08. The Aggies have made the conference tournament championship game four times in that span (2008, 2010, 2011, and 2016), including winning the tournament title and subsequent NCAA Tournament berth in 2011. UC Davis is 10-8 all-time in the Big West Tournament, going 2-1 last season before falling to Hawai’i in the championship game.

2008: 1-1 (W, UC Riverside... L, UC Santa Barbara)
2009: 0-1 (L, CSUN)
2010: 1-1 (W, UC Santa Barbara... L, UC Riverside)
2011: 3-0 (W, UC Irvine... W, UC Riverside... W, Cal Poly)
2012: 0-1 (L, Pacific)
2013: 0-1 (L, CSUN)
2014: 1-1 (W, UC Santa Barbara... L, UC Irvine)
2015: 2-1 (W, UC Irvine... W, Long Beach State... L, CSUN)
2016: 2-1 (W, UC Santa Barbara... W, UC Riverside... L, Hawai’i)

SEMIFINAL OPPONENT - #4 UC SANTA BARBARA: The Gauchos enter Friday’s semifinal with a 15-15 record after defeating No. 5 UC Riverside, 81-71, in the quarterfinal round... Sarah Porter finished with 31 points in the win, hitting a tournament record 9-of-11 from beyond the arc, while Drew Edelman added 22 points and 14 rebounds... The Gauchos have won their last three straight, closing the regular season with wins over UC Irvine and Cal Poly after falling to UC Davis back on Feb. 25... Edelman leads the team in scoring (11.6 ppg) and rebounding (7.6 rpg), while shooting a shade under 62 percent from the floor... Porter (10.1 ppg) is also in double digits for UCSB.

UCSB SERIES NOTES: The series between UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara is knotted at 17 wins apiece according to records that date back to the 1974-75 season... The Aggies have won the last four consecutive meetings -- and eight of the last 10 overall -- including a 71-67 victory in the quarterfinals of last year’s Big West Tournament... The Gauchos’ last win in the series came on Jan. 21, 2016, by the score of 66-59 in Santa Barbara... UC Davis has won the last three meetings with UCSB in the Big West Tournament (2010, 2014, and 2016) since the Gauchos posted a 74-59 win in 2008.

AND NOW... THE REST OF THE FIELD: The Aggies swept the regular season series from every conference foe but one -- Long Beach State took both meetings from UC Davis by a combined 15 points. In 10 years of Big West Tournament play, the Aggies have faced every school except for Cal State Fullerton at some point, posting a 3-1 record against both UC Riverside and UC Santa Barbara, 2-1 against UC Irvine, 1-0 against Long Beach State and Cal Poly, an 0-1 mark against Hawai’i, and a 0-3 record against CSUN.

“SEMI”-SWEET VICTORIES: The 2017 season marks the third straight year -- and the sixth time in 10 seasons overall (2008, 2010, 2011, 2015, 2016, 2017) -- that the Aggies have gained the semifinal round of the Big West Tournament, winning in four of their five previous chances, including an 81-72 triumph over UC Riverside last year.

ALL SHE DOES IS WIN, WIN, WIN: The winningest player in UC Davis history is now among the winningest head coaches in the program’s history, as Head Coach Jennifer Gross clinched career win No. 100 on March 2 at UC Riverside, following that up with No. 101 to clinch the Big West title outright two days later at CSUN. The Aggies’ sixth-year mentor is the fourth UC Davis women’s basketball coach to reach the century mark, joining former coaches Sandy Simpson (251), Jorja Hoehn (205), and Pam Gill-Fisher (164). As a player, Gross won no fewer than 22 games in a season during her four years, culminating in a 29-3 record and a third-place finish nationally as a senior. As an assistant coach from 2004-11, Gross also helped guide the Aggies to a total of 113 victories during the program’s transition to Division I, including a pair of WNIT berths and the program’s first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2011.

STREAKING: Saturday’s win at CSUN extended the Aggies’ winning streak to 10 straight games -- continuing to establish a new benchmark for consecutive victories in the program’s Division I Era, and its longest they won 14 straight games during the 1998-99 season.

PERFECT “10”: UC Davis’ 10 straight wins are tied for the eighth-longest active winning streak in the NCAA along with Bethune-Cookman, all behind a little school in Connecticut (perhaps you’ve heard of them), which has won 106 straight entering the week, as well as Belmont (21), Drake (19), New Mexico State (15), Central Arkansas (15), Notre Dame (14), and Stetson (14).

WIN AND WHERE?: The 23 wins this season rank second in the program’s Division I Era, trailing only the 24-9 mark set by the 2010-11 NCAA Tournament team... Overall, the 23 wins are tied for eighth in a single season, with the record of 29 set in 1996-97... The 14 Big West wins are also a school record, surpassing the 11-3 mark in league play during the 2009-10 season when the Aggies clinched their only Big West regular season title (21-11 overall), and are the most in any conference since they finished 14-8 against California Collegiate Athletic Association foes in 2001-02... UC Davis matched the Division I Era mark for home victories by finishing 12-2 at The Pavilion this season, equalling the 2010-11 squad that finished 12-3... UC Davis’ 11th win on the road on Saturday at CSUN set a new Division I Era mark for victories away from home, breaking the record set by the 2010-11 squad that finished 10-6, and posting the most since the 1998-99 team won 11 games on the road.

FORESHADOWING?: The Aggies’ win over Cal Poly on Feb. 22 secured the program’s third 20-win season in its Division I history (and the 15th overall since the 1979-80 season), surpassing last year’s win total with two games still to play in the regular season. The last time UC Davis won 20 games? The Aggies finished 24-9, won the Big West Tournament, and earned their first-ever NCAA Tournament berth in 2010-11. UC Davis also won 20 games in 2009-10 (21-11), advancing to the WNIT following its first Big West regular season title after finishing 11-3 in league that year.

A “GRAND” MILESTONE ON THE HORIZON?: Averaging 14.0 ppg last week against UC Riverside and CSUN, sophomore Morgan Bertsch stands just 75 points away from becoming the 18th player in UC Davis history -- and only the fifth at the Division I level -- to reach 1,000 career points. If she were to reach the mark with a monster finish this season, Bertsch would become the first sophomore to do so in the history of the program after three former greats (Carol Rische, Ellen Porshneva, and Sydnee Fipps) accomplished the feat as juniors.

AGGIES IN THE NCAA: UC Davis enters the week ranked among the top 50 in the nation in 15 different categories: field goal percentage (No. 41), field goal percentage defense (No. 22), free throw percentage (No. 37), three-pointers per game (No. 49), three-point percentage (No. 22), winning percentage (No. 29), assists per game (No. 18), fewest turnovers per game (No. 36), fewest fouls per game (No. 25), assist-to-turnover ratio (No. 20), three-point defense (No. 23), defensive rebounds per game (No. 25), fewest turnovers (No. 26), fewest fouls (No. 18), and assists (No. 35), while ranking among the top 100 in four other categories.

POINT(S) TAKEN: If the season ended today, this year’s edition of the Aggies would end up the highest-scoring of the program’s Division I history as their 69.8 ppg scoring average would top the previous standard of 68.5 ppg set in 2010-11. Entering the tournament with 2,010 points on the year, this season’s squad became the sixth team to break the 2,000-point barrier in the Division I Era, and ranks sixth on the list behind the all-time record 2,261 points in 2010-11.

STAY ON TARGET: According to Google Maps, It’s a little over 2,500 miles from Davis, Calif., to Oakville, Ontario, Canada (population 193,832 as of the 2016 census). After hitting 5-of-6 from beyond the arc on Saturday at CSUN, junior Dani Nafekh could probably make one from that far away if she had to. The managerial economics major only ranks fifth in the league with 56 makes from three-point range, but has been the most accurate of the bunch, leading the Big West and ranking third in the NCAA with a .487 three-point percentage entering the week.

HOLY POINT TOTALS, BATMAN!: After coming up 13 points shy in her bid to be the highest-scoring freshman in the program’s history with 446 points last year, Bertsch now sets her sights on the sophomore record held by Sydnee Fipps, who scored 512 points in 2012-13. Bertsch, with 479 points (and counting), already ranks ninth on school’s single-season list and needs 34 more to surpass Fipps’ standard. With 21 more points, she would become only the fifth Aggie to finish with 500-or-more in a single season, joining Staci Stevens (record 600 in 1987-88), Aimee Conner (561 in 1992-93), Fipps (548 in 2013-14 and 512 in 2012-13), and Sarah Allen (508 in 2002-03).

DOUBLE-DIGIT DUTY: Bertsch’s 27 double-digit scoring performances rank tied for third on the school’s single-season list alongside Sydnee Fipps’ total from 2012-13, just two back of Paige Mintun’s record of 29 set in 2010-11, while her 48 career double-digit scoring performances are still fifth. The sophomore’s eight 20-point games this season also rank fifth, while the 18 for her career stand second behind only Sydnee Fipps, who had 32 such games from 2012-15.

CENTURY MARK: Five more blocks on March 2 against UC Riverside has UC Davis over the century mark in the category for the second straight season, the third time in the last five years, and the fourth time since NCAA records are available (since 1992-93), entering the final game of the regular season with 109 as a team. The total stands just 16 back of the school single-season record of 125 set last season.

RECORD CHASING: Career block numbers 83, 84, and 85, at UC Riverside solidifed Bertsch’s hold on seventh place on the school’s all-time list, just two swats back of current assistant coach Des Abeyta for the No. 6 spot. Bertsch’s 49 blocks this season (which rank No. 80 in the NCAA as of March 3), has her tied for third place on the school’s single-season list with Janae Henning’s 2000-01 total, and puts her just seven shy of Paige Mintun’s record of 56 during the 2010-11 campaign.

FIELD “GOALS”: Bertsch enters the regular season finale with 191 baskets made, which places her fifth on the school’s single-season chart, five back of Staci Stevens (1987) and nine away from becoming only the fourth Aggie to reach 200 field goals made along with Stevens (252 in 1988), Aimee Conner (238 in 1993), and Carol Rische (201 in 1981).

BERTSCH’S BUCKETS: Since being held to a season-low two points against Cal State Fullerton on Jan. 28, Bertsch has blown up, reaching double figures in each of her last eight contests -- including a trio of 20-point games -- averaging 18.0 ppg while shooting .532 (59-for-111) from the field.

DROPPING DIMES: With her four assists at CSUN, Kourtney Eaton moved into sole possession of ninth on the school’s single-season list with 123, jumping past three former UC Davis greats in Kari Sivesind (119 in 1995-96), Jennifer Decuir (119 in 2003-04), and her head coach, Jennifer Gross (120 in 1996-97). Eaton stands just three away from passing Gross (125 in 1994-95) for eighth, and five back of matching Laura Manning (128 in 1988-89) for seventh. The Longview, Wash., native has finished with at least five assists 10 times this season -- and 21 times in her career -- as well as eight games of seven or more. Powered by her team-high total, the Aggies rank among the top 25 in the nation in assists (483) and assists per game (16.7 apg) -- good for No. 41 and No. 18, respectively, as of March 8.

ONE FOR YOU, NONE FOR THEM: In racking up those 123 assists, Eaton has turned the ball over only 46 times, posting an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.67 that ranks first in the Big West and No. 16 in the NCAA. Eaton has finished with no fewer than three assists in 26 of the team’s 29 games, while turning the ball over two-or-fewer times in 20 of those contests -- including seven games with zero turnovers. Overall, the Aggies rank No. 19 in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.24 as a team as of March 8.

SHE CAN DISH IT OUT: With three assists on Feb. 25 against UC Santa Barbara, junior Dani Nafekh helped herself right into the UC Davis record books, recording her 277th career assist to break a tie with Jessica Campbell for 10th on the school’s all-time list in that category and now stands seven back of Hana Asano for the program’s Division I career record (and No. 9 on the career list) with 278 following last weekend’s games at UC Riverside and CSUN. Nafekh is one of only six players to amass 200-or-more assists at the Division I level in the program’s history: Asano (285), Nafekh (278), Kourtney Eaton (236), Blair Shinoda (223), Alyson Doherty (214), and Celia Marfone (206).