ANAHEIM, CA-The Big West Conference Tournament title game was night and day for UC Davis. During the first two periods of its contest against the University of Hawai’i, UC Davis tallied just 18 points and looked every bit like a team that was about to get run out of the Honda Center. The Aggies got their mojo back in the second half and rallied from a 17-point down to earn a trip to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament with a 58-50 win against the Rainbows.
The Aggies would need every bit of the 40 points they scored in the second half to prevail against the Rainbows.
“First of all, I want to give a huge congratulations to Laura Beeman and her entire staff and that whole Hawai’i program What a tremendous effort and a great season from them. They have had a lot of ups and downs through their season and they were a tough opponent today, we beat a very, very good team and we wish them the best of luck in the postseason,” said UC Davis coach Jennifer Gross. “[As for us] I have never been more proud of a group of young women. To say we faced some adversity today would be a bit of an understatement. Hawai’i came really ready to play and not that we didn’t but they took it at us in the first half. At halftime we had to make a decision, we were either going to stand up to them, their pressure and the effort they were playing with or we were going to go home disappointed. And the all-out effort, togetherness, and resolve that my team showed today was a proud parent moment. They never gave up, they stuck together.”
By halftime of their championship matchup with Hawai’i, the Aggies found themselves getting handled thoroughly by the Rainbows. Hawai’i exploded for 22 points in the first quarter, and just like that, UC Davis was down by 12 at the end of the period.
The Aggies managed just 10 points in the opening period. The second quarter wasn’t any better for the Aggies. In fact, the period was just as bad.
UC Davis couldn’t nail down the open jump shots, couldn’t penetrate in the paint, and showed very little ball movement against an inspired Hawai’i team that just beat the Aggies a week earlier. UC Davis scored eight points in the period and walked into the locker room with a 32-18 deficit staring them right in the face.
“Our goal was to defend and rebound and to Hawai’i’s credit they scored on us pretty much every time and we just weren’t playing with enough energy,” Gross said. “Offensively, I thought we were really stagnant. We talked about getting the ball moving but they were doing a really good job with their pressure and we were being passive. Morgan [Bertsch] got us going to start the game but after that, we got passive even though we came into this game saying we would not let that happen. In the second half, we were able to get going in transition and put pressure on them and we played faster in general. We told our guards they have to be more aggressive, to keep driving and then look outside. We tried to get people in the right positions to get Morgan some space but really our defense let our offense down.”
That 14-point hole that UC Davis found itself in grew to 17 points early in the third quarter, and there was a feeling that this contest was on the verge of becoming a blowout win for the Rainbows. Then something strange happened: Hawai’i stopped hitting shots from the field. That trend actually started in the second quarter when the Rainbows scored just 10 points in the period.
Outside of scoring 22 points in the first quarter, Hawai’i scored 38 points (10, 10, 8) the rest of the game. The Rainbows started off shooting 50 percent from the field in the first quarter. That shooting percentage would trail off the rest of the way. Hawai’i went 4-15 from the field in the second quarter, made good on four of its 13 field goal attempts in the third quarter, and converted just one (1-13) of its shots in the final quarter.
For the game, Hawai’i shot 31 percent from the field, contributing largely to its inability to finish off UC Davis. Despite the obvious disappointment of not making it to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, Hawai’i coach Laura Beeman was proud of her team’s effort.
“I thought that we represented the state of Hawai’i really well this entire tournament,” Beeman said. “Definitely not the outcome that we wanted after playing an amazing first half. A team like [UC] Davis doesn’t quit. They have a tremendous record. They’re tremendously coached. Lots of praise and congratulations for Jennifer Gross and that staff and their ladies for not having any quit in them. They will rep the Big West very well in the NCAA tournament. Back to my girls, there’s not a lot of dry eyes in that locker room. They know we had the opportunity to win this and a little bit of pressure from Davis in the second half really affected us. The basket got really small and the lights got really bright, but overall I could not be more proud of this group for how they represented and how they fought today.