UCF (5-4, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) at UC Davis (9-0, 0-0 Big West)
Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017 | 4:00 p.m. | The Pavilion | Davis, Calif.
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TIP-OFF: Following a week off for final exams, the unbeaten UC Davis women’s basketball team looks to continue its winning ways to start the 2017-18 campaign, returning to action on Sunday (Dec. 17) at 4 p.m. with a non-conference battle against UCF at The Pavilion in the final home game of 2017.
AGGIES MOVE INTO MID-MAJOR TOP FIVE: A historic start that grew to nine consecutive victories with a pair of wins last week has pushed the UC Davis women’s basketball team into the top five of this week’s CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major poll, as the Aggies open the week as the No. 5 team in the nation according to the latest poll released on Dec. 12. After spending the last two weeks at No. 8, UC Davis made the jump following double-digit wins over San Francisco and Saint Mary’s, and join Ball State as one of two unbeatens in this week’s poll. 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.
AGGIES JUMP FIVE SPOTS IN RPI: After debuting at No. 47 in the first RPI rankings released by the NCAA on Dec. 4, the Aggies rode a pair of wins last week to a five-spot jump in this week’s edition, entering the week at No. 42. UC Davis is the top Big West school in Monday’s rankings, easily out-distancing Hawai’i (No. 181). It is the highest that the Aggies have been ranked in the RPI dating back to Dec. 29, when UC Davis stood at No. 40 in the nation.
ELSEWHERE IN THE POLLS: Neither UC Davis, nor UCF, 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 (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 @UCDavisWBB.
SCOUTING UCF: The Knights enter the week with a 5-4 record, posting their third win in their last four games with a 62-38 victory over Georgia Southern on Sunday... UCF faces Boston on the road on Wednesday before heading to the West Coast to take on UC Davis and Pacific... Senior guard Aliyah Gregory is one of three players in double figures, averaging 14.8 ppg, alongside teammates Zakiya Saunders (14.8 ppg) and Korneila Wright (10.0 ppg).
SERIES NOTES: UC Davis and UCF have met on only one other occasion, with the Aggies posting a, 77-71, win over the Knights in Orlando last season... UC Davis is 2-2 all-time against the American Athletic Conference, having faced only three members of the league: UCF (1-0), Navy (1-0), and UConn (0-2).
WINNING START: Still the only unbeaten team in the Big West entering the week (and one of only 12 remaining undefeated teams in the NCAA as of Dec. 10), UC Davis is 9-0 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 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 nine straight wins to start the year are tied for the sixth-longest active winning streak in the nation, trailing only Louisville and New Mexico (11 straight), and Florida State, Tennessee, and Syracuse (10 straight)...
• The 11 straight wins at home ranks are tied for the 11th-longest active streak in the NCAA and one of 18 schools with double-digit home winning streaks...
• Small, yet substantial, the Aggies’ four straight road wins are tied for the sixth-longest active streak in the country.
#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 Dec. 6, 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 last Saturday’s 24-point win at Saint Mary’s, the Aggies have won their last nine regular season road games dating back to a, 64-62, loss at Long Beach State on Jan. 21 of last season, and 11 of their last 12 overall with only a defeat at Washington State in the WNIT “Sweet 16” to close out the 2016-17 campaign.
NOT HALF BAD: UC Davis has led at the half in all nine 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 36 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 fifth (the fourth quarter against Portland State).
LEADERS, NOT FOLLOWERS: UC Davis has led for nearly 321 of a possible 360 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 seven wins, UC Davis has posted an average margin of victory of 21.7 ppg -- the largest being a 32-point win at Pacific on Nov. 20.
STOP RIGHT THERE: Thanks to 10 consecutive stops on defense to start the second quarter at Saint Mary’s, the Aggies held the Gaels to only six points en route to a 10-point halftime lead -- the fewest allowed in any quarter by the UC Davis defense this season and the second time the Aggies have held an opponent to single digits in a quarter (nine in the second at Seattle). UC Davis limited Saint Mary’s to just 29 points in the first three quarters before the Gaels rallied for 21 in the fourth with the game out of reach.
DE-FENSE (CLAP, CLAP): In holding the Gaels to just 39 percent from the field in Saturday’s win -- the lowest by Saint Mary’s this season -- UC Davis has held its last six opponents to under 40 percent shooting for a game dating back to the Portland State contest on Nov. 17 when the Vikings shot .426 from the floor -- only the second Aggie opponent to top the mark this season (Washington State shot .408 in the season opener). The performance has UC Davis ranked No. 27 in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.346) entering the week.
MMM... TURNOVERS: Apple. Cherry. Basketball flavored? We don’t know about that last one, but the Aggies’ defense was suffocating on Saturday in Moraga. UC Davis forced Saint Mary’s into 22 turnovers -- the most for a UC Davis opponent this season and the highest number forced since the Aggies pressured Cal Poly into turning the ball over 23 times on Feb. 2 last season.
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 eight of its nine wins this season -- the largest of which was 12 consecutive points against Washington State in the season opener and in last weekend’s victory at Saint Mary’s.
MOVIN’ ON UP: Thanks to her 23 points on Saturday at Saint Mary’s, junior forward Morgan Bertsch moved past both Lisa Jo Kellogg (1,143) and Kari Sivesind (1,145) for 10th place on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,165 points. Next in the sights? Her head coach, Jennifer Gross, next at No. 9 with 1,243 points.
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 nine such performances in the Aggies’ first nine games -- giving her 59 for her career and solidifying her hold on fourth place on the school’s Division I career list. Teammates Pele Gianotti (47) 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 at six on Dec. 6 against San Francisco, Bertsch has posted seven 20-point performances in nine games this season and has 26 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 2013-14.
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 Saint Mary’s, giving her 105 for her career and placing her just four 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.
A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING: She slices. She dices. She scores. She dishes. Senior political science major Pele Gianotti did just about everything for the Aggies in their two wins last week, averaging 12.0 ppg, grabbing a team-high 6.5 rpg, and dishing out 4.0 apg, while shooting 64 percent from the floor and 4-of-6 from beyond the arc, all while averaging 27.0 mpg in the two contests.
MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH: Of the 50 double-doubles recorded by the Aggies during their Division I era, all 50 have been made up of points and rebounds, including Gianotti’s 18 points and 10 boards at Pacific on Nov. 20 in Stockton, Calif. Junior psychology major Kourtney Eaton nearly bucked that trend last Saturday at Saint Mary’s, finishing with a season-high nine points and nine assists in the win over the Gaels, falling just shy of her first career double-double and, what would have been, the first point-assist double-double in UC Davis’ 11 years at the Division I level.
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 Dec. 6 against San Francisco, both Kourtney Eaton and senior Dani Nafekh joined a group of seven other UC Davis greats with 300 career assists -- the most recent of whom was Jackie Turpin, who finished with 344 from 2002-06. Following her nine assists at Saint Mary’s, Eaton solidified her hold on eighth place with 314, just seven back of Kim Omer (2000-04), while Nafekh remained in ninth with 304. Both stand 1-2 atop the program’s Division I career chart and are chasing Head Coach Jennifer Gross (448), who holds the all-time record.
TIS THE SEASON OF GIVING: For the third straight game, the fourth time in their last six games -- and the sixth time in nine games overall this season -- the Aggies finished with at least 20 assists in a game on Saturday at Saint Mary’s, logging 21 helpers on 29 makes in the 74-50 win in Moraga, Calif. UC Davis ranks No. 8 in the nation in assists per game (21.0 apg) and No. 10 in overall assists (189), while ranking No. 17 in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.39). Meanwhile, Kourtney Eaton enters the week ranked No. 37 in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.68), No. 16 in assists per game (6.6), and No. 16 in total assists (59).
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. 5 in the NCAA in made baskets with 88, trailing only Iowa’s Megan Gustafson (98), Rutgers’ Tyler Scaife (97), Florida State’s Shakayla Thomas (93), and Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell (92). The junior from Santa Rosa, Calif., also ranks among the top 25 in the nation in points (No. 25), points per game (No. 11), and field goal percentage (No. 13).
THREEE-CO-LA!: The Aggies enter the week ranked No. 13 in the NCAA in three-pointers per game (9.9), No. 5 in three-point percentage (.434), and No. 16 in total three’s made (89). Individually, three UC Davis players rank among the top 25 in three-point percentage: Pele Gianotti (10th, .514), Dani Nafekh (13th, .500), and Rachel Nagel (22nd, .487).