When the UC Davis women play at Connecticut tonight, it won’t be the first time the Aggies have faced a national No. 1.
Last season the Aggies lost 87-38 at home to Stanford, which was ranked No. 1 at the time.
But playing Stanford at home isn’t quite like playing the defending national champion Huskies at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., where they average crowds of nearly 8,000.
UConn is 9-0 this season, including a 76-57 win over No. 6 Stanford on Nov. 11. Stanford beat the visiting Aggies 66-48 on Nov. 17.
“We’re thrilled with the opportunity,” said UC Davis coach Jennifer Gross. “When you talk about measuring yourself against the best, there is no better opportunity than UConn.”
UConn will open next season at UC Davis.
Returning All-Big West Conference forward Sydnee Fipps, the Aggies’ leading scorer at 16.7 points a game, sees playing the Huskies as a great opportunity, something not to be feared.
“It helps us get better by playing against the better competition, and I think we’ll do well against them,” Fipps said.
Gross said Iowa State transfer Kelsey Harris also provides a calm hand for a group of young Aggies – four sophomores play key roles ‑ sure to be in awe of their surroundings.
Harris, a junior guard from Brea averaging 11.7 points, was used to playing in front of big crowds in the Big 12 Conference. The Cyclones twice made NCAA Tournament appearances during her time there.
Although Gross has been trying to develop more of a balanced inside-outside attack, the Aggies likely will need a strong perimeter performance to have any chance of staying with a Huskies team that is outscoring its opponents by nearly 38 points a game.
In the past three games, UC Davis has taken 93 3-point shots, making 38 (40.9 percent).
UC Davis’ perimeter shooting helped it beat San Jose State 95-61 at home Nov. 26, and Akron 71-58 Saturday in the Cal Poly Holiday Beach Classic. UC Davis attempted a school- record 39 3-pointers in a 69-67 loss to USF in the tournament opener Friday.
The Gaels come in as one of 23 remaining unbeaten D-I women’s teams.
Saint Mary’s senior forward Danielle Mauldin ranks third in the nation in rebounding with a 14.0 average and is second in scoring for the Gaels at 18.7 points per game.
Saint Mary’s has a 16-game winning streak against the Hornets.
The Hornets lead Division I with 13.8 3-pointers per game and lead the Big Sky Conference in points (89.8), assists (20.0), steals (15.2) and rebounds (47.4) per game.
Saturday, the Hornets host San Jose State (4-4) at 2 p.m. The game will mark the return to The Nest of former Hornets coach Jamie Craighead.