It wasn’t the strategy UC Davis coach Jennifer Gross planned before the Aggies’ Causeway Cup matchup at Sacramento State on Tuesday night.
But it worked out pretty well.
Aggies star Sydnee Fipps scored six points and played only four minutes in the first half after drawing two early fouls as the Hornets jumped to a seven-point halftime lead.
But what might have seemed costly, with the Aggies needing every healthy body against one of the highest-scoring teams in women’s college basketball, turned beneficial.
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The well-rested senior forward came on strong in the final 20 minutes, finishing with a game-high 26 points to lead the Aggies over the Hornets 90-82, snapping a two-game losing streak to their rivals.
“We do everything we can to keep her fresh, yeah,” Gross said, smiling. “She did a pretty good job in the second half.”
The two-time All-Big West Conference selection admitted she picked up two dumb fouls and deserved to sit out the rest of the half.
“In the second half, I was pretty well rested, my jersey was dry, and I was able to play about 16 minutes,” said Fipps, who shot 9 of 10 from the field and 8 of 11 from the foul line.
The Aggies also got a huge lift from the return of senior center Alyson Doherty. The 6-foot-3 junior injured her knee in last season’s Big West Conference tournament, had reconstructive surgery and did not play in the Aggies’ 102-43 loss to defending national champion Connecticut on Friday in Davis.
Doherty finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds in 22 minutes.
“I was a little tired in the first half, but I got all the nerves out and felt stronger in the second half,” Doherty said. “It was good.”
Celia Marfone added 14 points and nine rebounds, and freshmen Rachel Nagel and Pele Gianotti had 14 and 11 points, respectively.
UCD shot 54 percent from the field and outrebounded the Hornets 56-47.
“They’re a tough team to play,” Gross said. “We had to weather their storm early and got caught up in their pace in the first half. We talked about stretching them and slowing them down in the second half, and I thought we did a good job of that.”
Seniors Fantasia Hilliard and Takara Burse led Sac State with 18 points each. But the Hornets, who led by 11 points in the first half, went cold in the second half. They finished 31 percent from the field and 27 percent from three-point range.
Second-year coach Bunky Harkleroad has nine new players trying to play his mega-fast style that set a number of school and NCAA offensive records last season.
“We’ve let our energy level be dictated by whether the ball is going into the basket or not,” Harkleroad said. “We should actually play harder when it’s not. Davis is a good team. They’ve got all their starters back, and they played with more poise than we did. All of a sudden, we were a step or too slower.”
Call The Bee’s Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.