Aggies' postseason run continues in WNIT 'Sweet 16'

Junior Rachel Nagel led the Aggies with 16 points in her team's win at Colorado State in the WNIT second round last week. (Photo by Don Reichert/Colorado State)
March 21, 2017

NEXT UP…
GAME 33: UC Davis (25-7, 14-2) at Washington State (14-19, 6-12)
Thursday, March 23, 2017
7:00 p.m. (PT)
Friel Court at Beasley Coliseum (12,058)
Pullman, Wash.
TV: None
RADIO: KDVS 90.3 FM
Game Coverage: UC Davis Gameday Central (Audio/Video/Stats) | UC Davis Notes | Washington State Women's Basketball

TIP-OFF: In the midst of final exams, the UC Davis women’s basketball team’s “sweet” run through the 2017 Women’s National Invitation Tournament bracket continues this week as the Aggies (25-7 overall) -- one of 32 women’s basketball programs still playing this season -- head back out on the road to Pullman, Wash., to take on Washington State -- their second Pac-12 opponent of this postseason -- on Thursday (March 23) at 7 p.m.

IN THE POLLS: Following their loss in the Big West Conference Tournament semifinals, the Aggies dropped out of the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major poll according to the March 15 rankings, after being among those receiving votes for four consecutive weeks from Feb. 14 to March 7. Neither the Aggies, nor Cougars, are ranked among the top 25 in either the Associated Press or USA Today polls.

BE A FOLLOWER: Fans can keep up with the latest in UC Davis athletics by “liking” us on Facebook (facebook.com/UCDavisAggies) and following us on Twitter (@UCDavisAggies). You can also “like” the women’s basketball program (facebook.com/UCDavisWomensBasketball) as well as follow them on Twitter and Instagram (@UCDavisWBB). In-game updates on game day are also available on Twitter by following @UCDavisInGame.

CAN’T MAKE THE TRIP?: Links to live stats, streaming audio, and live video, will be available online via links on the Aggies’ Gameday Central page on UCDavisAggies.com. Fans may also listen live locally on KDVS 90.3 FM in Davis, Calif., or online at KDVS.org.

AGGIES IN THE POSTSEASON: The 2016-17 season marks the Aggies’ fifth foray into the postseason in its 10 seasons at the Division I level and the program’s first since making the WNIT field in 2012... UC Davis has made one trip to the NCAA Tournament back in 2011 when it won the Big West Conference Tournament and faced off against Bay Area rival Stanford in the first round, falling to the Cardinal, 86-59... This season’s two wins at Utah and at Colorado State improved the Aggies to 2-3 in WNIT games, previous falling to Gonzaga (81-60) in 2008, California (74-69 in overtime) in 2010, and Oregon State (66-48) in 2012... UC Davis was a mainstay in the NCAA Division II Tournament before making the jump to Division I, advancing to the NCAA West Regionals 12 times in 14 years from 1986-99, including a third-place national finish in 1997.

UC DAVIS DIVISION I POSTSEASON HISTORY

2008 WNIT at Gonzaga L, 81-60
2010 WNIT at California L 74-69 (ot)
2011 NCAA at Stanford L, 86-59
2012 WNIT at Oregon State L, 66-48
2017   WNIT at Utah W, 72-62
WNIT   at Colorado State   W, 58-57

FIGHT THE POWER: Of the 32 schools alive in the NCAA Tournament and the WNIT, only eight of those -- including UC Davis -- are from outside the so-called “Power Five” conferences: UConn (American Athletic) and Quinnipiac (Metro Atlantic Athletic) in the NCAA, along with Tulane (American Athletic), Middle Tennessee State (Conference USA), James Madison (Colonial Athletic Association), SMU (American Athletic), St. John’s (Big East), in the WNIT.

ROLLIN’: Having reached the third round of the WNIT, UC Davis became the first Big West Conference school to advance this far in the postseason event since former member Pacific reached the third round in 2013 before falling to Utah, 60-55, in overtime. A win Thursday would give the Aggies a berth into the quarterfinals -- becoming the first league member to do so since Long Beach State in 2000 when the tournament featured just 32 teams.

GOING THE EXTRA MILE(S): Selected to play their first two games of this year’s WNIT on the road, the Aggies are racking up the frequent flier miles thus far. Leaving campus last Thursday (March 16), UC Davis traveled 2,492 miles in an 83-hour span, opening up at 4,226 feet above sea level for its game at Utah, and climbing to an elevation of 5,002 for Sunday’s game at Colorado State. UC Davis travels another 2,060 miles round trip for Thursday's game in Pullman, Wash., playing, however, at a more modest 2,352 feet above sea level.

ABOUT THE COUGARS: Washington State enters the week with a 14-19 overall record, finishing with a 6-12 mark in Pac-12 play... The Cougars have won four of their last five, taking down BYU (72-64) and Wyoming (68-67 in overtime) in the first two rounds of the WNIT... Two of the wins in that span came against Colorado -- a possible quarterfinal opponent as the Buffaloes take on Iowa in their own “Sweet 16” match up... Washington State is 8-7 at home... The Cougars have lost three of their top four scorers for the season, with sophomore guard Alexys Swedlund leading the way at 11.1 ppg, shooting .382 from the field and .342 from beyond the arc.

SERIES NOTES: The series between UC Davis and Washington State is tied at one win apiece, but the two programs haven’t met since the 2010-11 season when the Aggies posted a, 77-38, win at home on Nov. 14... The Cougars won the first-ever meeting back on Nov. 15, 2009, posting a 64-54 win in Pullman, Wash.

CONFERENCE CALL: UC Davis is a combined 22-27 against Pac-12 opponents, snapping a nine-game losing streak against conference members with its win at Utah in the WNIT first round... The Aggies have faced nine of the league’s 12 current members: Arizona State (0-3), California (7-3), Oregon State (0-3), Stanford (10-12), UCLA (0-2), USC (1-1), Utah (1-1), Washington (2-1), and Washington State (1-1)... UC Davis has faced three Pac-12 schools this season, falling to No. 11 Stanford (68-42) and No. 15 Oregon State (93-52) before defeating the Utes in Salt Lake City to open the postseason... Prior to the win over Utah, the Aggies’ last win on the road against a Pac-12 school was during the 2012-13 season, defeating USC in Los Angeles, 78-69.

WIN AND WHERE?:
• The Aggies have won at least 20 games for the third time in the program’s Division I history, joining the 2009-10 team that finished 21-11 and the 2010-11 NCAA Tournament squad that finished 24-9...
• The 25 wins this season are a new Division I era record and the most for a UC Davis team since the Aggies finished 25-4 during the 1998-99 season...
• Overall, the 25 wins are tied for third in a single season, sitting behind a 26-5 season in 1990-91 and a record 29-3 mark in 1996-97...
• The Aggies’ 25 wins are the most by a Big West Conference school since former member Pacific finished 27-8 in 2012-13...
• 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’ 13th win on the road on March 19 at Colorado State is a new Division I era mark for victories away from home, breaking the record set in 2010-11 (10-6), and posting the most since NCAA records are available beginning with the 1981-82 season.

AGGIES IN THE NCAA: UC Davis enters Thursday ranked among the top 50 in the nation in 16 different categories as of March 21: field goal percentage (#41), field goal percentage defense (#26), free throw percentage (#44), three-pointers per game (#48), three-point percentage (#23), winning percentage (#26), assists per game (#23), fewest turnovers per game (#38), fewest fouls per game (#20), assist-to-turnover ratio (#21), three-point defense (#18), defensive rebounds per game (#27), fewest turnovers (#45), fewest fouls (#25), three-pointers per game (#44), and assists (#35), while ranking among the top 100 in six more categories.

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. Now, entering Thursday’s WNIT third round game, the Aggies’ sixth-year mentor is the fourth UC Davis women’s basketball coach to reach the century mark, posting a 103-83 overall record to join 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.

AWARDS SEASON: Trailing probably only the Oscars, Emmy’s, and Tony awards, the Aggies came away with some of the most coveted honors when the Big West Conference announced its postseason honor roll. Head Coach Jennifer Gross was named the league’s Coach of the Year for the first time in her career, sophomore Morgan Bertsch and junior Pele Gianotti were named to the all-conference first team, junior Dani Nafekh was an all-league second-team selection, and newcomer Nina Bessolo was selected to the all-freshman team. Read the complete release online at: http://www.ucdavisaggies.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/030617aab.html.

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 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).

DROPPING DIMES: Continuing the record-setting theme, with her five assists against Colorado State, sophomore Kourtney Eaton established a new Division I era single-season record with 135, breaking teammate Dani Nafekh’s mark of 130 set last year, and moving into third on the all-time single-season list behind Sara Lillevand, who had 159 in 1990-91 and 142 in 1989-90. The Longview, Wash., native has finished with at least five assists 12 times this season -- and 23 times in her career -- as well as eight games of seven or more. Powered by her team-high total, the Aggies rank among the nation’s best in assists (520) and assists per game (16.3 apg) -- good for No. 35 and No. 23, respectively, as of March 20.

NAGEL NAILS TO START THE POSTSEASON: After being held to single digits in the final seven games of the regular season, junior Rachel Nagel has found her scoring touch to start the postseason, averaging 17.0 ppg, while shooting .576 (19-for-33) from the field and .529 from beyond the arc (9-of-17). She had 18 points in the Big West Tournament semifinal against UC Santa Barbara, 17 more against Utah, and 16 against Colorado State in the second round.

SWAT TEAM: Three blocks on Sunday at Colorado State pushed UC Davis’ season total to 127, pushing the Aggies further over the century mark and establishing a new school record in the category for a single-season, breaking the previous mark of 125 set just last season. It marks the third time in the last five years, and the fourth time since NCAA records are available (since 1992-93), that UC Davis has crossed the century mark in that category.

BLOCK PARTY: It was tough sledding inside for Utah in the Aggies’ WNIT opener as UC Davis finished with a school single-game record 12 blocks in its first-round win, breaking the mark set against Humboldt State on Feb. 18, 1995. Sophomore Morgan Bertsch finished with a career-high six -- just one off the school record shared by Janae Henning (at San Francisco State in 2001) and Paige Mintun (vs. Pacific in 2011) -- Marly Anderson finished with a career-high five, and junior Rachel Nagel added the final swat.

BLOCK PARTY II: The six blocks by Bertsch against Utah brought the Santa Rosa, Calif., native’s total to 55 for the year, placing her just one shy of Mintun’s single-season record set in 2010-11, and 91 for her career, leaping her past assistant coach Des Abeyta and into sixth on the all-time list, just five back of Staci Stevens (1985-88) for the No. 5 spot. Nine more blocks and Bertsch will become only the fifth Aggie to reach the century mark for her career, joining Mintun (150), Alyson Doherty (147), Kendall Greene (119), and Janae Henning (109).

SUPER SCORING SOPHOMORE: There are a lot of numbers attached to Morgan Bertsch’s 23-point performance at Utah: the 10th consecutive double-digit game, her ninth 20-point game of the year, and the 19th 20-point scoring performance of her career. However, the most important number may be 514... as in the number of points she has this season, making her the highest-scoring sophomore in the history of the program. Bertsch passed Sydnee Fipps and her 512 points in 2012-13, for the honor and became only the fifth Aggie to finish with 500-or-more in a 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).

A “GRAND” MILESTONE ON THE HORIZON?: Sophomore Morgan Bertsch stands just 40 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.

ALSO CLOSING IN: Junior Pele Gianotti is close behind Bertsch in the race for 1,000 career points, entering Thursday’s game at Washington State needing just 174 points to reach the milestone.

DOUBLE-DIGIT DUTY: Bertsch’s 29 double-digit scoring performances this season tie Paige Mintun for the school’s Division I single-season record set in 2010-11, while her 50 career double-digit games are tied for fourth with Kasey Riecks (2008-12). Bertsch’s nine 20-point games this season are tied for third, while the 19 for her career stand second behind only Sydnee Fipps, who had 32 such games from 2012-15.

FIELD “GOALS”: Bertsch enters the team’s WNIT third round game with a Division I era single-season record 205 baskets made -- only the fourth UC Davis player all-time to score at least 200 field goals, and the first since Aimee Conner (238) in 1993. Bertsch ranks third on that list behind Staci Stevens (252 in 1988) and Conner, while standing ahead of the Carol Rische (201 in 1981).

YOU GET A REBOUND! YOU GET A REBOUND!: Everybody crashes the boards for UC Davis, which enters Thursday’s game with six players who have grabbed at least 100 rebounds on the season -- the highest number in the Division I Era (the 2010-11 squad had five), and the most active Aggie squad on the boards since the 1996-97 team finished with seven players over the century mark on the glass.

POINT(S) TAKEN: If the season ended today, this year’s edition of the Aggies would end up the highest-scoring in the program’s Division I history as their 69.1 ppg average would top the previous standard of 68.5 ppg set in 2010-11. Entering Thursday’s WNIT game with 2,212 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 second on the list behind the all-time record 2,261 points in 2010-11.

SHE CAN DISH IT OUT: Junior Dani Nafekh has helped herself right into the UC Davis record books, recording her 283rd career assist at Colorado State, solidifying her hold on the No. 10 spot on the all-time list and standing two back of Hana Asano for the program’s Division I career record (and No. 9 on the career list). 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 (283), Kourtney Eaton (248), Blair Shinoda (223), Alyson Doherty (214), and Celia Marfone (206).

ONE FOR YOU, NONE FOR THEM: In racking up those 135 assists, Eaton has turned the ball over only 54 times, posting an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.5 that ranks second in the Big West and No. 25 in the NCAA. Eaton has finished with no fewer than three assists in 28 of the team’s 32 games, while turning the ball over two-or-fewer times in 21 of those contests -- including seven games with zero turnovers. Overall, the Aggies rank No. 21 in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.21 as a team as of March 20.