The women’s basketball team took a tough loss in the 2016-17 home finale, losing 61-59 to UC Davis at the SRC Arena on Thursday, March 2. Aggie redshirt sophomore forward Morgan Bertsch hit a quick layup with 1.1 seconds left to play for the game winning shot, she also led the Aggies with 16 points. The Highlanders held the Aggies to just 33.3 percent shooting, but they only were able to convert on just 38.7 percent of their field goal attempts. Free throw struggles were key for the Highlanders, as the team that normally shoots 70 percent from the line was only able to convert on seven of their 12 free throws on the night.
The game was also the final game at the SRC Arena for Riverside native and starting guard Simone DeCoud who, despite shooting only two of 11, filled up the stat sheet with eight points, eight rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block. The Highlanders were led by junior guard Michelle Curry, who finished with 17 points and seven rebounds to go along with three assists. Sophomore Malou De Kergret ended the night with 13 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals.
The Highlanders could not find much of a rhythm from the get-go, making only three of their first 12 shots out of the gate. Despite these struggles, the defensive pressure prevented Davis from blowing the game open. The Aggies were only able to score 14 points in those six minutes, putting them up by six. The Highlanders could not get much closer than that, though, and they trailed 19-12 heading into the second quarter.
The second quarter saw Davis get into more of a rhythm as the team was able to expand the lead to 28-15 with 6:14 left in the period. Facing this deficit, the Highlanders still could not buy a basket, going until 3:57 left in the half without a single point. The Highlanders were able to chip away at the lead slowly over the final part of the half, entering the locker room trailing 34-26. The Highlanders only shot 33.3 percent from the field in the first half, but Davis was not much better at 38.5 percent.
Going into the third quarter, the Highlanders knew it was going to take some work and patience to cut into this lead. Both teams traded baskets and short four and five point spurts before the Highlanders were finally able to break through with a 9-0 run that brought the score to 44-43 with 2:34 left in the quarter. The Aggies were able to break out of their short cold spell, scoring the final four points of the quarter to increase the lead to 48-43 heading into the fourth.
The first three minutes of the fourth quarter were sloppy for both teams, with Davis and UCR racking up four and two turnovers respectively and seeing only one total basket made in that span. Once they settled down, the Highlanders began slowly chipping away at the Davis lead once again, finally bringing it to a tie at 59 with 47 seconds to play off of a 3-pointer from junior forward Clemence Lefebvre.
After a turnover by the Aggies gave the Highlanders the ball back with 43 seconds remaining, freshman forward Skyler Lewis’ shot was blocked and Davis reclaimed possession, immediately calling a 20-second timeout with 37 seconds to go.
After the Aggies once again missed their shot to break the tie, UCR called a timeout with 23 seconds in the game. However, Pele Gianotti was able to poke the ball away from Kergret on the ensuing possession which gave the Aggies the ball with three seconds to score. They were able to get the ball to Bertsch who was able to make a move to the inside of the paint and was able to convert with 1.1 seconds to play. A long heave from Curry ended up short as Davis walked away with the win.
The loss to Davis coupled with a UC Santa Barbara victory on Saturday, March 4 dropped the Highlanders to the fifth seed in the Big West Conference tournament, which gives them a first-round matchup on Tuesday, March 7 against eighth seed UC Irvine beginning at 6 p.m. inside Long Beach State’s Pyramid Arena.