Wednesday, April 17, 2024
HomeSportsBasketballUC Davis Upsets Hawai’i in Big West WBB Semifinal Game 51-48

UC Davis Upsets Hawai’i in Big West WBB Semifinal Game 51-48

- advertisement -

The UC Davis Aggies Women’s Basketball team (20-13, 13-7) defeated the University of Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine (20-10, 17-3) 51-48 in the semifinals of the 2024 Hercules Tires Big West Women’s Basketball Championships at the Dollar Loan Center Arena in Henderson, Nevada 

Junior guard Tova Sabel led the Aggies with 14 points, with senior guard Evanne Turner and junior forward Mazatlan Harris each adding 13 points.

The Rainbow Wahine started hot with a 5-0 scoring run, courtesy of a layup from junior guard Lily Wahinekapu and a three-pointer by redshirt senior guard Ashley Thoms. A three-pointer from Sabel ended the scoring run, putting the Aggies on the board. 

Both teams went back-and-forth until a three-pointer from Turner cut the deficit to 9-6 going into the first media timeout. Turner then drove to the basket, drawing contact and knocking down two free throws to cut the Hawai’i lead to 9-8 going into the second quarter. 

Hawai’i junior guard MeiLani McBee started the second quarter off, scoring with a three-pointer. A bucket from Aggies redshirt sophomore guard Victoria Baker cut the Hawai’i lead to 12-10. 

Hawai’i then went on a 6-0 run with back-to-back three-pointers from junior forward Jacque David and Big West Sixth Player of the Year junior guard Daejah Phillips, increasing the lead to 18-10.

The UC Davis defense intensified, forcing consecutive shot clock violations, leading to easy points on the other end. The Aggies capped off a 9-0 run to take a 23-20 lead going into the halftime break, following back-to-back three-pointers from redshirt sophomore center Megan Norris and a three from Harris.

At the break, both teams struggled to score offensively, with UC Davis shooting 7-25 (28%) and Hawai’i connecting on only eight of 28 shots (28.6%) from the field. UC Davis held a slight edge (19-18) in the rebounding category, while the Aggies held an 11-6 advantage in points off turnovers.

The same theme continued to start the second half as both teams went scoreless for the first three minutes of play. Turner broke the cold streak for the Aggies, getting to the line and knocking down two free throws to increase their lead to 25-20.

Both teams traded baskets as a three-pointer from Sabel increased the UC Davis lead to 28-22, and a fast break bucket from Hawai’i junior guard Kelsie Imai cut the Aggies lead down to four. Then, the Aggies exploded as Harris scored the next five points herself, expanding their lead to 33-24. A three-pointer from Sabel ballooned the Aggies lead to 36-24, their largest lead of the night, forcing a Hawai’i timeout. 

A three-pointer from McBee ended a three-minute scoring drought for the Rainbow Wahine, and an and-one bucket from David cut the UC Davis lead to 37-30. Two free throws from Wahinekapu capped an 8-0 Hawai’i scoring run, cutting the Aggies lead to five.

An Aggies bucket from Sabel and a free throw on the other end from Thoms cut the UC Davis lead to six. Imai then created a steal for Hawai’i, dishing it to Thoms in the corner for three and cutting the Aggies lead to 39-36 heading into the fourth quarter.

The Rainbow Wahine started right where they left off in the fourth with a layup from McBee and two free throws from Imai to retake the lead 40-39, with seven and a half minutes remaining. 

UC Davis answered with a 5-0 spurt of their own after a layup by Baker and two free throws from Sabel to take a 43-40 lead. A layup by McBee ended the run, cutting the lead to one, yet a huge three by Turner put the Aggies back up four, forcing a Hawai’i timeout. 

The Rainbow Wahine answered with a three-pointer by Jacque, cutting the lead to one, then a huge offensive rebound by sophomore forward Imani Perez drew the whistle, connecting on one of two free throws to tie the game at 46-46 with two minutes left. 

Two free throws from Wahinekapu put Hawai’i up two with a minute and a half to go. On the ensuing possession, a huge three from Turner put the Aggies back up 49-48, giving Hawai’i a chance to win it.

Following a timeout, UC Davis was unable to get the ball in play, forcing a five-second violation and giving Hawai’i possession. Again, Wahinekapu drove to the basket, this time fouled by Sabel. With an opportunity to give Hawai’i the lead with 10 seconds left, she missed both free throws, giving UC Davis the ball still up one. 

UC Davis called timeout again, advancing the ball to halfcourt. They inbounded the ball to Harris, drawing two free throws in an immediate foul by Hawai’i. Harris stepped to the line and calmly knocked down two shots, giving Davis a three-point advantage. 

With five seconds left, Wahinekapu advanced the ball for Hawai’i, finding Jacque for a three-pointer; however, the ball fell just short, giving UC Davis a 51-48 victory. 

After the game, UC Davis head coach Jennifer Gross reflected on her team’s grit in such a tightly contested back-and-forth game. 

“I thought the atmosphere here in Henderson was so fun today. It was loud. It’s such an incredible venue. So we loved it,” Gross said in an interview with the New University. “I just can’t say enough [of] how proud I am of our team. I could go down the roster and [say] each and every person had a significant impact on this game and stepped up when we needed them. [Tova and Mazatlan] were huge for us all game long, both not only offensively but defensively as well. And, I’m just super proud of them and excited that they get to compete for a championship which is something that we’ve been talking about since day one.”

Hawai’i head coach Laura Beeman also reflected on how disappointed her team is, yet elaborated on how this was a lesson for them as they head to the National Invitational Tournament (NIT).  

“That’s what sports do to you, they challenge you,” Beeman said in an interview with the New University. “They put you in positions that you don’t want to be in and you can be a quitter, or you can grow. We have a very young team. We have everybody coming back but two [players]. We need this postseason experience. We have not won a postseason game before. But this team has to recalibrate. They don’t have a choice. we took a dent today, [but] we need to see how far we can fly in this postseason. I want to see a team that wants to fight back and wants to win in the postseason.”

UC Davis will advance to play UC Irvine in the Big West Final on Saturday, March 16 at 3 p.m. PST at the Dollar Loan Center in Henderson, Nevada, while Hawai’i will await their matchup next week in the first round of the NIT Tournament.

James Huston is a Sports Co-Editor. He can be reached at hustonj@uci.edu

Edited by Phillip Lemus, Jaheem Conley, and Jennifer Cheong