Aggies host Idaho in WNIT first round

March 12, 2018

2018 Women’s NIT Bracket
Idaho Women’s Basketball

DAVIS, Calif. — For the first time in the program’s Division I history, the UC Davis women’s basketball team will host a postseason contest, welcoming Idaho of the Big Sky Conference to The Pavilion for a first-round Women’s National Invitation Tournament match up on Thursday (March 15) at 6 p.m., as the field of 64 teams was released by the tournament committee on Monday.

Tickets will go on sale on Tuesday (March 13) at Noon online at UCDavisAggies.com, in person at the UC Davis athletics ticket office at Aggie Stadium on campus, and over the phone by calling (530) 752-AGS1. Courtside seats are available for $15, reserved seats are $13, with general admission tickets going for $11. Parking in Lot 25 near the arena will be free on a first-come, first-served, basis.

The Aggies (25-6 overall) are making their second straight postseason appearance, their fifth appearance in the WNIT, and the sixth postseason appearance overall in the program’s 11 seasons at the Division I level. Thursday’s winner will face either Wyoming (21-10 overall) out of the Mountain West Conference or New Mexico State (18-12) from the Western Athletic Conference in the second round as the Cowgirls and Aggies meet in Laramie, Wyo., also on Thursday.

After playing on the road in each of its previous five postseason trips as a Division I program, UC Davis last hosted a postseason contest in 1999 when it was home to the NCAA Division II West Regionals, defeating Cal Poly Pomona in the second round before falling to Montana State-Billings in the regional final.

The regular season champion of the Big West Conference for the second consecutive year, the Aggies enter the tournament tied for the fourth-most victories overall among the field of 64 and sports the third-best winning percentage (.806) behind only South Dakota and UAB (.813), which each finished the regular season at 26-6 overall. UC Davis is fresh off a run to the “Sweet 16” of last year’s WNIT, claiming the program’s first-ever postseason victories on the road at Utah and Colorado State, before falling to Washington State in Pullman, Wash.

Monday’s announcement was also good news for the Aggies in terms of home court advantage as they finished 13-1 at The Pavilion this season — including winning its last eight straight — establishing a new record for home wins in the program’s Division I history and posting the most wins at home since the 1997-98 squad also finished 13-1. UC Davis has been impressive in defending its home court, winning 25 of their last 28 at The Pavilion and posting a combined 62-33 (.653) record at home under Head Coach Jennifer Gross.

Led by 10th year head coach Jon Newlee, the Vandals finished the regular season with a 19-13 overall record and a 13-5 mark in the Big Sky, making a run to the conference tournament championship game before falling to Northern Colorado, which earned a No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will meet No. 7 Michigan in the opening round. Idaho, making its third straight postseason appearance won 11 of its final 13 heading into the conference tournament, and posted wins over Montana State (78-74) and Portland State (102-99) in the opening rounds, before falling to the Bears (91-69).

Junior guard Mikayla Ferenz led a trio of Vandal starters in double figures, averaging 22.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, while dishing out 4.41 assists per contest and shooting .452 from the field and .407 from three-point range. Senior post Geraldine McCorkell (16.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg, .477 FG%) and junior guard Taylor Pierce (15.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg) are also in double figures for an Idaho squad that averaged 75.2 ppg and shot .433 from the field, while holding opponents to 74.5 ppg and a .425 field goal percentage.

The Aggies and the Vandals had six opponents in common this season: Big West rivals CSUN and Cal State Fullerton, Seattle of the Western Athletic Conference, and Big Sky opponents Sacramento State, Portland State, and Southern Utah. Idaho finished 8-2 against that group, while UC Davis finished a nearly identical 7-2. Thursday’s meeting will be the first-ever between the two programs in women’s basketball.

Combined with the announcement of the 2018 NCAA Tournament field earlier in the day, the Aggies have faced six teams that have earned a postseason berth this season in NCAA selections CSUN (No. 16 seed vs. No. 1 Notre Dame), Seattle (No. 15 seed vs. No. 2 Oregon), and Oregon State (No. 6 seed vs. No. 11 Western Kentucky), as well as WNIT selections Saint Mary’s (an automatic qualifier out of the West Coast Conference), UCF (an automatic qualifier out of the American Athletic Conference), and Fordham (an at-large selection out of the Atlantic-10 Conference).

First-round action in the WNIT begins Wednesday, March 14 and continues through Friday, March 16. Round 2 games take place March 17-20; Round 3 games are March 21-23, Round 4 runs March 24-26, and the semifinals are March 28-29. The championship game will be held at 3 p.m. ET on March 31, and televised on CBS Sports Network. All games are hosted by participating schools.

Complete tournament information is available online at WomensNIT.com.