College Sports

UC Davis women look to slow Sacramento State

Adella Randle-El, right, drives during a Sacramento State practice on Nov. 5, 2015.
Adella Randle-El, right, drives during a Sacramento State practice on Nov. 5, 2015.

When it comes to Causeway Cup rival Sacramento State, UC Davis women’s basketball coach Jennifer Gross says you can toss convention out the window.

“They’re very challenging,” Gross said. “They force you to practice for something completely new. Basically, you are not working on what you want to work on; you’re working on preparing for that game.”

UC Davis hosts Sac State and coach Bunky Harkleroad’s unconventional “The System” on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Pavilion. The Hornets won 84-78 at Davis two years ago, and the Aggies won 90-82 at the Nest last season. The Hornets lead the series 28-26.

The Hornets made more NCAA women’s basketball history Sunday in their 117-99 loss to No. 17 Cal in the consolation game of the Cal Classic in Berkeley. The Hornets shattered their Division I record for three-pointers attempted in a game with 80, 22 more than the record they set last year at San Diego State. The Hornets’ 111 field-goal attempts against Cal also broke the Big Sky Conference record.

They lead Division I in three-pointers (12.5) and offensive rebounds (24.0) per game. They are second in steals (14.0) and fourth in forced turnovers (24.5), and average 81.7 points.

80 Three-pointers attempted by Sac State, breaking its previous NCAA record by 22, in its loss to No. 17 Cal on Sunday

Yet the Hornets (1-5) have lost five straight because they’re shooting just 34 percent and allowing opponents to shoot 53 percent and average 90 points.

Meanwhile, UCD (6-2) has a six-game win streak, its longest since 2010-11.

The Aggies’ most impressive win was Dec. 3 in Moraga when they defeated mid-major No. 4 Saint Mary’s 78-71 in overtime behind Pele Gianotti’s career-high 26 points. Saint Mary’s (7-2) defeated Cal and Villanova in the Cal Classic.

The Aggies have held opponents to 31.7 percent shooting, fifth best in the country, led by the frontcourt trio of 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman Morgan Bertsch, 6-3 senior Alyson Doherty and 6-foot senior Celia Marfone. The Aggies also are holding teams to 57.2 points per game.

Doherty is playing against Sac State’s unique style for the third time and looks forward to the challenge.

31.7Opponents’ field-goal percentage against UC Davis, fifth best in the country

“We know what’s coming,” said Doherty, who leads the Aggies in scoring (14.1 points), rebounds (7.8) and blocks (2.3). “We know they’re going to try to create a frenzy and try to have us turn the ball over. We’ve got to be aggressive on offense, and we’ve got to hold them to one shot and get the rebound. If we do that, we have a really great chance of winning the game.”

For a group of Aggies looking for their first winning season, Doherty says the key Sunday will be defense.

“This is the best we have been defensively since I’ve been here,” Doherty said. “The coaches tell us all the time that defense wins championships.”

Bill Paterson: 916-326-5506, @SacBee_BillP