A record-breaking stretch of dominance has helped the UC Davis women’s basketball team secure at least a share of the Big West Conference regular-season title entering Saturday’s finale at Cal State Northridge.
The Aggies (22-6, 13-2) have their best conference record since entering the Big West in the 2007-08 season. Thursday’s 61-59 victory at UC Riverside was UCD’s ninth consecutive victory, the program’s longest winning streak in Division I.
With the score 59-59, Morgan Bertschhit a short bank shot with 1.1 seconds left to give the Aggies the win and coach Jennifer Gross her 100th coaching victory in her six seasons at UCD.
“I think this game was really good for us,” Gross said. “We’ve been fortunate that we haven’t been in too many close games lately, and we need to know we can win the close ones. We need to know that we can win in different ways.”
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UCD can earn no worse than the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament, which begins Tuesday in Anaheim. Because of the high seeding, the Aggies advance directly to Friday’s semifinals at the Honda Center.
UCD has a one-game lead over Long Beach State (21-9, 12-3). An Aggies win will give them the conference tournament’s No. 1 seed. A loss at Northridge and a Long Beach victory at Hawaii will move the Aggies to the No. 2 seed. UC Davis lost twice to the 49ers this season.
Gross knew a regular-season title wouldn’t come easily.
“We knew all along we were going to have to earn everything, and it’s nice to be in position where we have a chance to win an outright Big West championship,” Gross said. “I just couldn’t be prouder of our team and how far we’ve come this year, and I’m pretty excited about what lies ahead.”
UCD men – After battling all season for the No. 1 spot, the UC Davis Aggies and UC Irvine will square off for the Big West championship Saturday afternoon in Irvine.
The winner earns the No. 1 seed in the Big West tournament and an automatic bid to the National Invitation Tournament, which begins March 14. The conference tournament winner will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The eight-team Big West tournament opens Thursday in Anaheim. The No. 1 seed will face No. 8 UC Riverside.
UCD (19-11, 11-4) defeated Hawaii 68-59 to finish with an 11-0 record at the Pavilion this season.
Guard Brynton Lemar, who leads the conference with 478 points this season and has surpassed 1,000 for his career, scored a game-high 19 points against Hawaii.
The Aggies, who are 5-8 on the road and 3-3at neutral sites, defeated UC Irvine 74-65 in the first meeting between the teams Jan. 28. Irvine is 18-13 and 11-4.
Sac State men – After losing their first three games of the Big Sky Conference schedule, the Hornets (12-16, 9-8) have won five of their past seven games and nine of their past 14 entering Saturday’s regular-season finale at Northern Colorado.
Sac State – coming off perhaps its biggest win of the season over Big Sky-leading North Dakota, 57-53 on Thursday in Grand Forks, N.D. – is seventh in the standings. A win Saturday in Greeley, Colo., and a loss by Montana at Idaho State would move the Hornets into sixth.
Senior center Eric Stuteville enters Saturday’s game 10 points shy of 1,000 for his career. No center has reached that milestone in program history, dating to 1948.
The Big Sky tournament begins Monday at the Reno Events Center with the women’s first round (No. 5 through No. 12). The men open play Tuesday (No. 6 through No. 11).