UC Davis backed up its billing as the most efficient offense in the Big West while extending both its winning streak and Hawaii’s February frustrations with a 69-50 win on Thursday at the Stan Sheriff Center.
The Aggies, the Big West leaders in scoring and shooting percentage, shot a staggering 62 percent in the first half, finished at 53 percent for the game and took control with a 17-0 run bridging halftime while winning their sixth straight to remain alone atop the conference standings.
UC Davis forward Morgan Bertsch scored 24 points, guard Pele Gianotti added 20 points and 10 rebounds and the Aggies (19-6, 10-2 Big West) picked up the program’s first Big West win in Honolulu while sending UH (8-16, 4-8) to its fifth straight loss before a crowd of 581. “Just kind of another night of the same stuff,” UH coach Laura Beeman said. “Not being able to get defensive stops when we need to, definitely not being able to contain their post play and then putting so much pressure on our defense because we’re not scoring the ball. … It kind of snowballs.”
UH guard Courtney Middap scored all 13 of her points in the second half in her most extensive playing time of a freshman season hampered by a knee injury suffered in preseason practice. Middap went 5-for-9 from the field and hit two 3-pointers, the second coming early in the fourth quarter as UH chopped a 24-point deficit to 12.
But UC Davis went inside to Bertsch to trigger a 7-0 run and the Aggies remained firmly in control. The Aggies outscored UH 44-18 in the paint and won the rebounding battle 34-29. “We’re definitely at our best when we’re playing inside-out and sharing the ball,” UC Davis coach Jennifer Gross said. “I thought we did a nice job moving the ball, getting different people touches and then at the end of a possession if we didn’t have a great shot we were going inside and Morgan, of course, did a nice job of finishing.”
Bertsch, the Big West’s second-leading scorer entering the game, went 11-for-19 from the field and matched her scoring total in UC Davis’ 70-55 win over UH on Jan. 7.
Bertsch accounted for half of UCD’s scoring while the Aggies took a 14-9 lead after the first quarter. UC Davis then went 10-for-15 from the field in the second quarter to stretch the lead to 3620 at the break.
UH forward Lahni Salanoa hit three 3-pointers in the first half and UH closed to 27-20 in the second quarter. But UC Davis closed the half on a 9-0 run, then scored the first eight points of the third quarter to open up a 44-20 cushion.
Middap had scored five points this season before finding her rhythm off the bench in the third quarter. “(The injury has) been pretty frustrating, but with the help of the team and the coaching staff I’ve been able to stay with it and keep going through it and it really helped me the way I played tonight,” she said. Guard Sarah Toeaina finished with 12 points, nine in the second half, and UH shot 35 percent as a team. Beeman also praised the play of freshman Julissa Tago, who had a season-high six assists and seven rebounds. UH concludes its fourgame homestand against Cal State Northridge (14-11, 7-4) on Saturday. The Matadors also won their sixth straight, an 85-77 victory over UC Irvine on Thursday.
UC Davis got some help in the Big West race with Cal Poly’s upset of second-place Long Beach State. UH is alone in seventh place, two games behind Cal Poly for sixth with four games to play.