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UC Davis: Women’s Basketball Punches NCAA Tournament Ticket

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Down by 17 in the third quarter of Saturday’s Big West Tournament championship game at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., UC Davis began to chip away at its deficit until junior biological sciences major Sophia Song’s three, hit with 4:18 remaining, gave UC Davis the lead for good in its 58-50 victory over Hawai’i.

With that win, the Big West’s regular-season champions will return to Davis with the Big West Tournament trophy and a ticket to the NCAA Tournament — its first appearance in the Big Dance since 2011. The Aggies will find out who they will face, and where they are headed when ESPN reveals all NCAA Tournament matchups during Monday’s 4 p.m. (PT) Selection Show.

Following the game, league officials announced the 2019 All-Big West Tournament Team, one that included two Aggies: sophomore cell biology major Cierra Hall and senior biomedical engineering major Morgan Bertsch, who was also named Tournament MVP.

It was a 25-6 run, over a 13 minutes of game time during the third and fourth quarters, combined with its outstanding defense, that was the turning point of Saturday’s matchup, which featured the tournament’s top two seeds. In addition to its scoring surge, UC Davis did not allow Hawai’i to record a field goal in the last 9:40 of the game, and held it scoreless for 9:03 in the fourth quarter, until the Rainbow Wahine’s final five points were earned at the free throw line.

Of the 30 points scored in the fourth quarter, 22 were earned by the Aggies. Bertsch led UC Davis with 24 points and eight rebounds, but the Aggies received great contributions from Hall, who put up 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists, as well as senior psychology major Karley Eaton and her five points, five assists and two steals.

Hawai’i was paced by Tia Kanoa, who had 15 points and two steals, in addition to the 14 points from Leah Salanoa. UC Davis got off to a rocky start, and trailed Hawaii 22-10 after the first quarter, and 32-18 at halftime. Of the Aggies’ points scored before the break, Bertsch was responsible for 10.

UC Davis managed to keep Hawai’i’s halftime advantage under control in the third, but weren’t able to take the lead, and headed to the fourth quarter down 42-36. The Aggies shot 53.3% from the field in the period, including 33.3% from three, where they nailed one shot. With the basketball in their hands, Hawaii shot 33.3% from the field in the frame and 20.0% from beyond the arc, where they made one three.

Once the fourth quarter arrived, the Aggies showed why they were the team to beat all season long, thanks to an experienced squad that remained poised and continued to inch its way closer to the Rainbow Wahine with each passing minute. They were trailing entering the fourth, but a strong final quarter that saw them shoot 50.0% from the field and 100.0% from three propelled UC Davis to their 58-50 victory. The Aggies were helped in the second half by the performance of Bertsch, who scored 14 points. Over the course of the game, UC Davis shot 38.5% from the field, including 22.2% from three, and knocked down two shots from beyond the arc. Hawaii, on the other hand, finished 31.0% from the field and 29.6% from three, knocking down eight shots from deep.