Aggies' season opener brings Pilots to The Pavilion

Junior Marly Anderson made quite a debut with the Aggies, finishing with nine blocks in a pair of exhibition wins. (Photo by Wayne Tilcock/Davis Enterprise)
Nov. 9, 2016

NEXT UP...
GAME 1: Portland (0-0) at UC Davis (0-0)
Friday, Nov. 11, 2016
7:00 p.m.
The Pavilion (5,931)
Davis, Calif.
TV: None
RADIO: KDVS 90.3 FM
LINKS: UC Davis Gameday Central | UC Davis Notes Get Acrobat Reader | Portland WBB

TIP-OFF: A pair of exhibition victories have the UC Davis women’s basketball team suitably warmed up to open the 2016-17 campaign, as the Aggies play host to the University of Portland in their regular season opener on Friday (Nov. 11) at 7:00 p.m. at The Pavilion.

IN THE POLLS: UC Davis is unranked to begin the season; However, the Aggies are scheduled to meet a pair of schools that are ranked in the preseason top 25: Stanford opens the season at No. 10 and Oregon State is ranked No. 17 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

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.

LID LIFTERS: Friday’s contest against Portland marks the fifth consecutive season that the Aggies will open the year in front of the hometown faithful, looking to snap a four-game skid in season openers after last year’s 74-45 loss to No. 16 Stanford... The losing streak follows a five-game winning streak in season openers from 2007-12, with the last win coming against Washington, 69-68, on the road in Seattle to tip-off the 2011-12 campaign... UC Davis is 23-19 all-time in season openers dating back to the 1974-75 campaign, including a 10-8 mark at home in that span (with the locations of three games unknown)... The Aggies’ last win when opening a season at home came on Nov. 11, 2007, defeating Sacramento State, 68-39, at The Pavilion... UC Davis is 6-4 in its last 10 home openers since 2006-07.

ABOUT THE PILOTS: Portland returns 10 letter winners and all five starters off of last season’s squad that struggled to a 3-27 overall record and a 1-17 mark in West Coast Conference play... A pair of freshmen and a transfer are added to the mix under third-year head coach Cheryl Sorenson, who led her charges to exhibition wins over Willamette (81-49) and Warner Pacific (95-58) in preparation for the season... The Pilots have lost the services of leading scorer Ellie Woerner (11.8 ppg), who transferred to Boise State after her freshman season, as senior guard Kaylie Van Loo is the leading returning scorer after averaging 7.9 ppg and dishing out nearly four assists per contest a season ago.

SERIES NOTES: Portland leads the all-time series with UC Davis, 2-1, with the Aggies posting a 72-47 victory over the Pilots in Oregon... Portland won the first two meetings in 2004 and 2005... Friday marks only the second meeting between the two in Davis, with the Pilots winning the first-ever meeting, 66-63, on Dec. 18, 2004.

CONFERENCE CALL: UC Davis is 39-51 all-time against the West Coast Conference, winning two of three last season, but falling in seven of its last 10 against league members... The Aggies have faced seven of the conference’s 10 members: Pepperdine (1-3), Portland (1-2), San Francisco (5-7), Pacific (13-13), Saint Mary’s (11-12), Santa Clara (8-11), and Gonzaga (0-3).

PICK YOUR POISON: During the team’s two exhibition games, it wasn’t a matter of WHEN the Aggies were going to score, but WHO was going to do the scoring. UC Davis had four players average double figures -- and seven average at least seven points per game -- led by junior Dani Nafekh and her 15.0 points per game, as no player finished in double figures in both of the Aggies’ contests. Overall, UC Davis shot 47 percent and averaged 90.5 ppg in its two wins, led by Nafekh and her 12-for-19 (.632) shooting performance from the floor.

THIRD QUARTER’S A CHARM: Last season, the third quarter was a bit of a bugaboo for the Aggies, who were outscored by nearly 60 points over the course of the season in the period. This year, UC Davis turned that trend around in its two exhibition contests, outscoring Oregon Tech and Stanislaus State by a combined 53-13 in the third quarter, including a 30-5 margin against the Owls in the exhibition opener.

BLOCK PARTY IN THE U.S.A.: With UC Davis junior Marly Anderson as your host. In her first action in an Aggie uniform after sitting out all of 2015-16 due to NCAA transfer rules, Anderson established herself as a force inside for the Aggies in their two exhibitions, collecting nearly half of the team’s 20 blocks in the two contests with three against Oregon Tech and six against Stanislaus State. Had the stats counted toward the regular season, UC Davis would have tied the school single-game record with 10 blocks against the Owls (originally set against Humboldt State on Feb. 18, 1995) just a season after setting the school single-season record with 125 blocks overall as a team in 2015-16.

YOU GET A BASKET... YOU GET A BASKET...: Sophomore Kourtney Eaton was just as busy helping her teammates score as she was scoring herself, finishing the two exhibitions with 10 assists against only two turnovers, averaging 9.5 ppg (including a team-high 18 points against Stanislaus State) and shooting 50 percent (7-of-14) from the floor.

SONG SINGING SWEETLY ON THE BOARDS: Freshman Sophia Song was a beast on the boards off the bench in the Aggies’ exhibition contests, leading the way with 17 rebounds in 34 minutes (two better than Morgan Bertsch and her 15 rebounds), averaging 8.5 rpg while also putting up 7.5 ppg in her UC Davis debut.

SO... HOW ‘BOUT THEM AGGIES?: UC Davis returns seven letter winners overall and three starters off of last season’s squad that finished 19-13 overall and advanced all the way to the Big West Conference Tournament championship game as the No. 4 seed, including upsetting top-seeded UC Riverside in the semifinals -- a team that finished the regular season a perfect 16-0 in conference play. Gone are all-conference selections Alyson Doherty (first team) and Celia Marfone (honorable mention), but the Aggies return leading scorer Morgan Bertsch, who averaged 13.9 ppg en route to second-team honors as well as a spot on the all-freshman squad, and honorable mention selection Pele Gianotti, who averaged 11.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game and ranked among the top 15 in the Big West in six different categories.

HSU JOINS THE ROSTER: UC Davis picked up another newcomer for its 2016-17 roster prior to the start of the season, welcoming walk-on Kaitlyn Hsu to the Aggie family. Hsu, a four-year letter winner at Northwood HS in Irvine, Calif., is a neurobiology, physiology, and behavior major who averaged better than 14 points per game during her senior season, while earning All-CIF and All-Pacific Coast League honors as a junior, setting school records in scoring (20.5 ppg) and three-pointers made (70).

AGGIES RECEIVE HIGH PRAISE IN PRESEASON POLLS: The UC Davis women’s basketball team received high praise from the coaches and media, picked to finish second by the Big West Conference head coaches and fourth by the media during the 2016-17 according to the league’s preseason polls released on Oct. 25. The runner-up in last year’s Big West Tournament, the Aggies received 61 points from the coaches to finish behind only Long Beach State, which received five of the nine first-place votes and 73 points overall. In the media poll, UC Davis received one first-place vote and garnered 113 points overall to place behind the 49ers (nine first-place nods, 157 points), UC Riverside, and Hawai’i -- all of which reached the semifinals of last year’s conference tournament.

BERTSCH EARNS PRESEASON HONORS: UC Davis sophomore Morgan Bertsch was one of six student-athletes named to the league’s preseason all-conference team -- the fourth consecutive season that the Aggies have had a player so honored. Bertsch becomes the fifth UC Davis player to earn a spot on the preseason all-conference squad, joining two-time preseason honorees Haylee Donaghe, Paige Mintun, and Sydnee Fipps, as well as 2015 selection, Alyson Doherty.

TOURNEY-TESTED SCHEDULE: UC Davis is scheduled to play a total of 12 contests against teams that reached the postseason a year ago, including road contests at “Final Four” participant Oregon State (Dec. 14) and NCAA regional finalist Stanford (Dec. 4). Aside from the Beavers and Cardinal, the Aggies will also take on NCAA Tournament participants San Francisco, Jacksonville, and Big West Tournament champion Hawai’i, and face-off against WNIT qualifiers UC Riverside, Long Beach State, Montana State, Saint Mary’s, and Hofstra. The Pride advanced the furthest of any of the WNIT qualifiers on UC Davis’ schedule, reaching the quarterfinals before falling to eventual tournament runner-up, and Atlantic Sun Conference rival, Florida Gulf Coast.

LET’S PLAY TWO: Harkening back to their old Division II days, the Aggies will join the men’s team on the floor at the Pavilion for a quartet of home doubleheaders this season -- all during Big West play -- while preceeding the UC Davis men for a pair on the road at Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 2 and 4, respectively. In a rematch of last year’s Big West Tournament championship game, the Aggies host Hawai’i on Jan. 7 (men vs. Cal Poly), UC Davis welcomes Cal State Fullerton on Jan. 28 (men vs. UC Irvine), face-off against UC Irvine on Feb. 11 (men vs. UC Riverside), and close out the home schedule with a “Senior Day” battle against UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 25 (men vs. Long Beach State).

HOME, SWEET HOME: UC Davis women’s basketball fans will be able to get their fill of the Aggies to start the 2016-17 season, as they will play eight of their first 10 games on Bob Hamilton Court in The Pavilion before embarking on a six-game road-trip to close out the calendar year. It’s an almost unheard-of stretch to start the season for UC Davis, which hasn’t opened with this many games at home to open a campaign since the 1990-91 season when the Aggies also opened with eight of their first 10 at home, finishing 8-2 in those games.

STATE OF THE AGGIES: Nearly half of the 2016-17 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 six 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), while two (Kourtney and Karley Eaton) hail from the state of Washington.

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 during the 1999 campaign. Taking it one step further, both the Eaton’s and Hanft’s are identical twins.

BY THE NUMBERS: Despite the loss of two of its top four scorers from a season ago, UC Davis returns nearly two-thirds of its offense statistically for the 2016-17 season, bringing back 65% (1,416 of 2,191) of its total points, 60 percent (720 of 1,198) of its rebounds, 73 percent (382 of 526) of its assists, 66 percent (520 of 788) of its field goals, 76 percent (153 of 201) of its three-pointers, and 54 percent (223 of 414) of its made free throws. What does it all mean? We don’t know, but numbers are fun.

SHE CAN DISH IT OUT: Junior guard Dani Nafekh set a school single-season Division I Era record with her 130 assists as a sophomore, helping her move up the career chart and stand fifth with 196 in her two seasons as an Aggie. Four more assists would give the Canadian 200 for her career, making her only the fifth UC Davis player to reach that plateau in the program’s Division I history: Hana Asano (278), Blair Shinoda (223), Alyson Doherty (214), and Celia Marfone (206).