Cal Poly Women’s Basketball was defeated by UC Davis on Saturday, Feb. 9 by a score of 85-61. The home match was decided by a dominant third quarter in which the Aggies totaled a 24-2 scoring drive. Led by center Morgan Bertsch, the Aggies tallied 15 three-points shots in the game, converting half their chances from outside the arc.
Coming into Saturday’s game against first-place UC Davis (17-6, 9-1 Big West), the Mustangs (5-15, 2-7) stood second to last in the Big West Conference. However, this did not deter Cal Poly from executing a 7-0 run at the start of the first quarter. Junior forward Hana Vesela put the Mustangs on the scoreboard with a deep three-point shot seconds into the game. Senior point guard Dye Stahley, who recently fueled an overtime victory against Long Beach State, followed up with back-to-back jump shots of her own.
However, UC Davis kept pace with the help of Bertsch and guard Kourtney Eaten. After Bertsch, the reigning Big West Conference Player of the Year, scored the first five points for the Aggies, Eaten added a pair of three-pointers. The duo’s 13 points in the first quarter mirrored that of Vesela and Stahley, who combined for 12. A lay-up from Aggie guard Cierra McKeown concluded the first quarter at 18-17.
According to Vesela, the Mustangs knew UC Davis were going to be a challenge, but the amount of good shooters on the Aggies became hard to keep up with.
“They have really good shooters, so we had to guard both, in and out,” Vesela said. “I think it was tough for us at times, getting out to the shooters. We were late a lot of the time.”
The parity of the game continued throughout the second quarter as both teams traded buckets. The lead fell to the Aggies two minutes into the second quarter following a three-point shot from forward Kayla Konrad. Still, the Mustangs kept their shots coming. Senior forward Katie Nunnelley found an open three-pointer to bring the Aggies’ lead to just one point with 5:48 remaining in the half. Seconds later, Nunnelley sank another three, this time to even the game at 28-28. However, foul trouble throughout the quarter granted UC Davis a 7-11 success rate from the free throw line. As a result, the Mustangs entered halftime trailing 41-35.
For head coach Faith Mimnaugh, the Mustangs proved to themselves in the first half that they can play with any team in the league.
“The ball was moving well, we set great screens,” Mimnaugh said. “It didn’t hurt that [Vesela] hit her first three, and [Nunnelley] hit all her three’s. All those things kept us in the game.”
All of that changed in the third quarter when the Aggies seemed to flip a switch. Freshman guard Maddie Willett scored a jump shot in the opening seconds to bring the deficit within four points – the closest Cal Poly would come to closing the gap for the rest of the game. At that point, UC Davis gained full control, scoring the next 24 points. The Aggies registered nine straight buckets in the scoring drive – six of which from the three-point range. By the time it was over, UC Davis carried a 46-71 lead into the final quarter.
The Mustangs were able to outscore UC Davis in the last 10 minutes, but the Aggie’s lead was too great to overcome. Freshman guard Gianna Silvestri registered three buckets from the three-point range. Stahley and junior forward Alicia Roufosse each added a pair of free throws, but the game concluded with a 85-61 Aggies win.
Mimnaugh said low energy and a lack of emotion led to the decisive third quarter surge.
“We stopped moving the basketball, we didn’t get any flow, we had turnovers,” Mimnaugh said. “Because we had turnovers, that resulted in early opportunities for them to fastbreak, so they were getting some wide-open threes. Our transition defense sucked as a result, and all of a sudden they’re up 20.”
Bertsch, who led the Aggies with a game-high 21 points, entered the match at No. 4 in the country in points per game. Stahley totaled 11 points with seven boards while Silvestri added 12 points off the bench.
Vesela finished with a team-high 13 points coming off her season-high performance against Long Beach State. The six-foot-four-inch transfer hopes the game can be a learning lesson.
“As [Mimnaugh] said, it was really nice to see that we can play with the really good team,” Vesela said. “But, also, we need to stay with it for 40 minutes. I think it’s going to be really crucial for the next game to stay focused for 40 minutes instead of 20.”
Cal Poly will be on the road for their next match against CSUN (11-12, 5-4) on Thursday, Feb. 14.