Aggies tip-off with exhibition against Academy of Art

Nov. 2, 2017

Academy of Art (16-12, 12-8 PacWest in 2016-17) at UC Davis (25-8, 14-2 Big West in 2016-17)
Friday, Nov. 3, 2017 | 5:00 p.m. | The Pavilion | Davis, Calif.
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JUMP BALL: The defending Big West Conference champion UC Davis women's basketball team tips-off its 2017-18 campaign with an exhibition this week, hosting NCAA Division II Academy of Art on Friday evening (Nov. 3) at 5:00 p.m. at The Pavilion. The Aggies officially open their season on Nov. 10, welcoming Washington State to Northern California in a rematch of last year's Women's National Invitation Tournament "Sweet 16" match-up at 7 p.m.

AGGIES RECEIVE LOVE IN COLLEGE INSIDER MID-MAJOR POLL: UC Davis will begin the season with a little national attention, ranking No. 20 in the nation according to the Preseason Mid-Major poll released on Oct. 31. The Aggies return to the poll after spending four consecutive weeks among those receiving votes from Feb. 14 to March 7 last season. UC Davis debuted in last season's mid-major poll on Dec. 13 and picked up a season-high 11 votes in the rankings on Jan. 10 after opening Big West play with a 2-0 mark.

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SO… HOW 'BOUT THEM AGGIES?: UC Davis returns all five starters and all but one player off of last season's squad that finished 25-8 overall and 14-2 in the Big West Conference to clinch the regular season title. Although they were eliminated in the semifinals of the league tournament, the Aggies earned the program's first-ever postseason victory with a win at Utah in the opening round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament, and advanced all the way to the event's round of 16 before falling on the road at Washington State. Junior post, and biomedical engineering major, Morgan Bertsch leads the way offensively after averaging 15.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game en route to All-Big West first team honors, while fellow first-teamer, Pele Gianotti, and second-team selection, Dan Nafekh, were also in double figures at 11.2 and 11.0 ppg, respectively.

ABOUT THE ACADEMY OF ART: The Urban Knights finished 16-12 overall and 12-8 in the PacWest Conference in 2016-17, finishing seventh in the league and just missing out on a conference tournament berth… Senior forward Helena Orts is the leading returning scorer off of last season's squad, averaging 15.3 ppg and 9.0 rpg while shooting .529 from the field and .400 from three-point range.

AGGIES WEARING BIG WEST TARGET: UC Davis was picked to repeat as Big West Conference champions by both the coaches and media, according to a vote released on Oct. 25. The Aggies received six of the nine first-place votes from the coaches and 16 of the 19 first-place nods cast by the media en route to the top spots. UC Davis finished with 77 points overall in the coaches poll to shade second-place CSUN (69) and UC Santa Barbara (63), while collecting 166 points in the media poll, to out-place the Matadors (148) and Gauchos (112).

DAVIS DUO ARE PRESEASON PICKS: The Aggies placed a pair of returning starters on the coaches' six-member preseason all-conference team in junior post Morgan Bertsch and senior forward Pele Gianotti -- both All-Big West first team picks a season ago -- while Bertsch was also selected to the preseason all-league squad by the media. Bertsch earned a spot on the conference's preseason squad for the second straight season, while Gianotti became the sixth UC Davis player to earn preseason laurels, joining Bertsch, Haylee Donaghe, Paige Mintun, Sydnee Fipps, and Alyson Doherty.

SUCH AN EXHIBITIONIST: UC Davis enters Friday's contest against Academy of Art having won its last 14 exhibition games dating back to a, 43-41, loss to Sonoma State on Nov. 6, 2006. Following last year's, 97-42, win over Oregon Tech and an, 84-47, victory over Stanislaus State, the Aggies have posted exhibition wins over the Melbourne Roos, Concordia (Ore.), Humboldt State (five times), Sonoma State (twice), Australian Showcase, San Francisco State, and Redlands during their recent run.

TOURNEY TESTED SCHEDULE: A non-conference schedule that features six postseason teams from a year ago, and eight that finished among the top 150 in the final RPI rankings, sets the scene for the the Aggies in 2017-18. UC Davis will take on a pair of NCAA Tournament teams from a season ago in Oregon State and Big West rival Long Beach State, while Washington State (semifinals), Seattle (first round), Saint Mary's (first round), UCF (second round), and Fordham (second round), all made the postseason WNIT field.

MILESTONE WATCH: Bertsch, who set the school record for the most points by a sophomore with 520, enters her junior season on the verge of a milestone, needing just 34 more points to become the 18th player in the history of the program to reach 1,000 for her career. Should she reach the mark, the Santa Rosa, Calif., native would become only the fourth junior to accomplish the feat at UC Davis, joining former greats Carol Rische, Ellen Porshneva, and Sydnee Fipps.

ALSO CLOSE: Bertsch may not be the only Aggie who could reach the 1,000-point milestone this season, as three of her teammates are also within striking distance. Senior Pele Gianotti, a political science major, is just 163 shy of 1,000 for her career, followed by classmate Rachel Nagel, a psychology major who needs only 293 points after finishing with 317 last season. Senior guard Dani Nafekh also has an outside chance of reaching the 1,000-point plateau this season, but if she repeats her scoring exploits of last year (352 points), the milestone is attainable as the managerial economics major needs 351 points to hit the mark.

WIN AND WHERE?: Wrapping up a record-setting 2016-17 campaign…
• The Aggies 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 mark for home victories by finishing 12-2 at The Pavilion, 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.

STATE OF THE AGGIES: Half of the 16-member 2017-18 UC Davis women's basketball roster is made up of players from outside the state of California -- the highest number of out-of-state student-athletes in the program's Division I history. The eight out-of-staters have a decided Pacific Northwest tilt as the Aggie coaching staff has successfully mined the state of Oregon for three players (Pele Gianotti, Marly Anderson, and Emma Gibb), two more from Washington (Kourtney and Karley Eaton), and another from British Columbia (Sage Stobbart) -- giving UC Davis a pair of Canadians along with senior Dani Nafekh (Ontario). Transfer guard Katie Toole, who must sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules, hails from Farmington, Utah -- the first "Beehive State" native in the program's Division I history.

SEEING DOUBLE: Karley (older by one minute) and Kourtney Eaton are believed to be only the second set of sisters to take the floor together in the history of the women's basketball program, joining Dru and Rachelle Hanft, who played together during the 1999 campaign. Taking it one step further, both the Eaton's and Hanft's are identical twins.