Aggies and Gaels clash in battle of mid-major powers

Senior Dani Nafekh enters the weekend ranked No. 9 in the nation in three-point percentage (Photo by Wayne Tilcock/Davis Enterprise)
Dec. 8, 2017

UC Davis (8-0, 0-0 Big West) at Saint Mary's (5-2, 0-0 WCC)
Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017 | 1:00 p.m. | McKeon Pavilion | Moraga, Calif.
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TIP-OFF: A clash between two of the nation’s top mid-major programs is up next for the UC Davis women’s basketball team as the unbeaten Aggies (8-0 overall and ranked No. 8 in the Mid-Major poll) make the short trip to Moraga, Calif., to take on Saint Mary’s -- ranked No. 12 in the latest Mid-Major poll -- on Saturday (Dec. 9) at 1 p.m. at McKeon Pavilion.

AGGIES HOLD STEADY IN MID-MAJOR TOP 10: UC Davis held steady at No. 8 in the nation for the second consecutive week according to the Mid-Major poll released on Tuesday (Dec. 5). The Aggies are one of three unbeaten teams in this week’s poll along with Navy (7-0) and Ball State (6-0). After opening the season at No. 20 in the preseason poll, UC Davis jumped to No. 17 in the second poll of the year on Nov. 14, and was No. 11 a week later on Nov. 21.

ELSEWHERE IN THE POLLS: Neither UC Davis, nor Saint Mary’s, are ranked in either the Associated Press or USA Today top 25 polls this week.

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

SCOUTING SAINT MARY’S: The Gaels enter the week with a 5-2 overall record after having their five-game winning streak snapped with a, 74-63, loss at Utah on Dec. 2... Saint Mary’s is a perfect 4-0 at McKeon Pavilion this season, posting wins over Washington State, Cal Poly, UC Santa Barbara, and Indiana... Junior forward Megan McKay leads a trio of Gaels in double figures, averaging 16.7 ppg and shooting .621 from the floor... Senior guard Stella Beck (15.7 ppg, .581 FG%) and junior forward Sydney Raggio (15.0 ppg, 8.4 rpg) are also in double figures as Saint Mary’s averages 79.6 ppg as a team and shooting .484 from the floor this season.

SERIES NOTES: The series between Saint Mary’s and UC Davis is all knotted up at 12 wins apiece according to records that date back to the 1978-79 season... The Aggies have won the last two meetings following four consecutive wins by the Gaels, posting an overtime win in Moraga, 78-71, in 2015, and winning on a Rachel Nagel buzzer-beater at The Pavilion, 68-66, last season... UC Davis is just 4-6 on the road against Saint Mary’s, but have won three of the last five meetings in Moraga after snapping a two-game skid with their win two years ago... Four of the last five games between the two programs have been decided by nine points or fewer.

CONFERENCE CALL: UC Davis is 46-51 all-time against the West Coast Conference, posting a perfect 3-0 mark this season following wins over Pepperdine, Pacific, and San Francisco... The Aggies have won the last nine straight against WCC opponents dating back to a, 66-53, loss to Pacific on Nov. 16, 2015... UC Davis has faced seven of the league’s 10 current members: Pepperdine (2-3), Portland (2-2), San Francisco (7-7), Pacific (15-13), Saint Mary’s (12-12), Santa Clara (8-11), and Gonzaga (0-3).

BERTSCH HONORED BY COLLEGE SPORTS MADNESS: For the third time in four weeks, junior forward Morgan Bertsch has been named the College Sports Madness Big West Player of the Week following a career night against Causeway rival Sacramento State. Bertsch won her first award, along with Big West Player of the Week honors, on Nov. 13, and took home her second honor on Nov. 27 as teammate Rachel Nagel took home the conference’s weekly award.

WINNING START: Still the only unbeaten team in the Big West entering the week (and one of only 14 remaining undefeated teams in the NCAA as of Dec. 6), UC Davis is 8-0 to start a season for the first time in the program’s Division I history -- eclipsing the previous 5-0 starts in 2007 and 2011 -- and is off to the best start by a Big West Conference school since Hawai’i began the 1991-92 season with an 11-0 mark.

AND ANOTHER ONE: Some notes on the Aggies’ hot start to the 2017-18 campaign entering this week’s contests:
• The eight straight wins to start the year are tied for the sixth-longest active winning streak in the nation, trailing only New Mexico (10 straight), and four others (nine straight)...
• The 11 straight wins at home ranks are tied for the 11th-longest active streak in the NCAA and one of 17 schools with double-digit home winning streaks...
• Small, yet substantial, the Aggies’ three straight road victories are tied for the 13th-longest active streak in the country.

AGGIES TOP BIG WEST IN FIRST RPI: In the first RPI ranking released by the NCAA on Dec. 4, the Aggies come in at No. 47 in the nation, easily out-distancing UC Riverside (No. 183) for tops among Big West Conference schools.

#PROTECTTHEPAVILION: A 5-0 start on Bob Hamilton Court has the Aggies humming at home, just one season after tying the program’s Division I record with a 12-2 mark at The Pavilion, winning their last 11 straight at home dating back to a, 64-51, loss to Long Beach State on Jan. 12 of last season. Thanks to its win over San Francisco on Wednesday night, UC Davis has now won 21 of its last 24 on its home floor, and is a combined 54-32 (.628) at The Pavilion under Head Coach Jennifer Gross.

HOME IS WHERE THE WINS ARE: The Aggies’ 11 straight wins at home is their longest winning streak since they won 13-in-a-row at The Pavilion from Jan. 7, 2010 to Dec. 27, 2010. The record for consecutive home triumphs is 20 set from Dec. 6, 1996 to Nov. 29, 1997.

WE CAN WIN ON THE ROAD TOO: Following a 32-point road win at Pacific on Nov. 20, and back-to-back 26-point victories at Southern Utah and Seattle, the Aggies have won their last eight regular season road games dating back to a, 64-62, loss at Long Beach State on Jan. 21 of last season, and 10 of their last 11 overall with only a defeat at Washington State in the WNIT “Sweet 16” to close out the 2016-17 campaign.

LET’S PLAY TWO!: Ernie Banks would be proud. The Aggies have won nine straight doubleheader dates, 15 of their last 16, and are 22-4 in their half of a twinbill during the Division I era -- including an 11-2 mark against Big West opponents. In 26 all-time home doubleheaders, both UC Davis teams have swept their ends of the doubleheader 14 times, including seven of the last nine. The women will be the opening act in three more home doubleheaders with the men’s team this season: against UC Santa Barbara (Jan. 27), CSUN (Feb. 10), and UC Irvine (Feb. 24).

NOT HALF BAD: UC Davis has led at the half in all eight games, with their four-point, 31-27, advantage at the break against Sacramento State on Nov. 30 the smallest lead of the year after 20 minutes of play. In fact, in 32 quarters, the Aggies have lost the scoring battle only four times (the fourth quarters against Washington State and Pepperdine, and the third quarters against Sacramento State and San Francisco), while tying a fourth (the fourth quarter against Portland State).

LEADERS, NOT FOLLOWERS: UC Davis has led for nearly 291 of a possible 320 minutes this season, never falling behind by more than six points (Nov. 17 vs. Portland State) at any point in a game this season and leading wire-to-wire three times in victories over Pepperdine, Seattle, and San Francisco.

IN THE MARGINS: The seven-point margin of victory against the Hornets on Nov. 30 was the Aggies’ second smallest, trailing only the five-point win over Pepperdine on Nov. 12. In the other six wins, UC Davis has posted an average margin of victory of 21.3 ppg -- the largest being a 32-point win at Pacific on Nov. 20.

WIN-VEMBER: With its win over Sacramento State on Nov. 30, the Aggies completed an unbeaten month of November (7-0) -- only the fourth unbeaten month in the program’s Division I history and its best unbeaten month since they finished 7-0 in February of 2008.

RUN, RUN, GUNROCK: The Aggies have the opposition reeling like a merry-go-round. UC Davis have had a run of 10-or-more points in seven of its eight wins this season -- the largest of which was 12 consecutive points against Washington State in the season opener.

NO MAKES FOR YOU: The UC Davis defense limited visiting San Francisco to under 30 percent shooting from the floor (a season-low .286 to be exact) in Wednesday night’s win -- the second time this year that the Aggies have held an opponent to less than 30 percent (.299 by Pepperdine on Nov. 12).

MOVIN’ ON UP: Thanks to her 14 points on Wednesday night against San Francisco, junior forward Morgan Bertsch moved past Colleen Turnbull (1999-03) and into 12th place on the all-time scoring list with 1,142 points. The biomedical engineering major from Santa Rosa, Calif., stands one point back of Lisa Jo Kellogg (1,143) and three behind Kari Sivesind (1,145) for a spot in the top 10, with her head coach, Jennifer Gross, next at No. 9 with 1,243 points.

300: In bowling, it’s a perfect game. In Aggie women’s basketball history, it’s a milestone that few have achieved. With their performances on Wednesday against San Francisco, both junior Kourtney Eaton and senior Dani Nafekh joined a group of seven other UC Davis greats with 300 career assists, as Eaton moved into eighth place with 305 and Nafekh close behind in ninth with 302. Both stand 1-2 atop the program’s Division I career chart, passing Hana Asano for the top spot earlier this year, and are chasing their head coach, Jennifer Gross (448), who holds the all-time record.

CENTURY MARK: Already the fifth Aggie to reach the century mark in career blocks at Seattle on Nov. 26, Bertsch swatted another shot in the win over San Francisco, giving her 104 for her career and placing her just five back of Janae Henning (1998-02) on the all-time list. Bertsch, who set the school single-season record with 57 swats as a sophomore last season, is within striking distance of career record holder Paige Mintun (2006-11) and her 150 blocks.

TIS THE SEASON OF GIVING: Thanks to six assists apiece from sisters Kourtney and Karley Eaton, the Aggies finished with 22 assists on 29 made baskets Wednesday against San Francisco -- the third time in the last five games, and the fifth time overall, that they have finished with at least 20 assists as a team. UC Davis ranks No. 7 in the nation in assists per game (21.0 apg) and No. 14 in overall assists (168), while ranking No. 16 in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.42). Meanwhile, Kourtney Eaton enters the week ranked No. 17 in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.33), No. 22 in assists per game (6.3), and No. 28 in total assists (50).

MAKING GOOD ON THOSE PASSES: A good number of those assists this season have been thanks to the reliable hands of Bertsch, who enters the week ranked No. 7 in the NCAA in made baskets with 78, trailing only Iowa’s Megan Gustafson (92), Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell (92), South Carolina’s A’Ja Wilson (87), Baylor’s Kalani Brown (85), Florida State’s Shakayla Thomas (82), and Rutgers’ Tyler Scaife (79).

DOUBLE-DIGIT DAMAGE: After tying the school’s Division I single-season record with 29 games with 10-or-more points, Bertsch is back at it again with eight such performances in the Aggies’ first eight games -- giving her 58 for her career and solidifying her hold on fourth place on the school’s Division I career list. Teammates Pele Gianotti (46) and Rachel Nagel (35) also rank sixth and ninth, respectively, on that same career list, chasing record-holder Sydnee Fipps, who collected 80 career games with double digits in the scoring column from 2011-15.

I’LL TAKE BERTSCH FOR 20 PLEASE, ALEX: Although her streak came to an end Wednesday night against San Francisco, Bertsch has posted six 20-point performances in eight games this season and has 25 for her career -- well within striking distance of Sydnee Fipps’ all-time record of 32 from 2011-15. Bertsch’s six straight 20-point games this season are also a program Division I record, surpassing Fipps’ five straight from Dec. 15 to Jan. 2 during the 2013-14 season.

THREEE-CO-LA!: The Aggies enter the week ranked No. 11 in the NCAA in three-pointers per game (10.1), No. 6 in three-point percentage (.431), and No. 15 in total three’s made (81), while senior managerial economics major Dani Nafekh and classmate Rachel Nagel rank among the top 20 individuals at No. 8 (.516) and No. 13 (.500) in the country, respectively.

The Last Meeting
Saint Mary's66
UC Davis68
December 11, 2016
Davis, Calif.
Nagel's buzzer-beater lifts Aggies past Gaels
Junior Rachel Nagel floated home the game winner at the buzzer to cap an 18-point night, leading three teammates in double figures, and lifting host UC Davis to a thrilling, 68-66, win over Saint Mary's on Sunday afternoon in front of a season-high 883 fans at The Pavilion.