Davis, Calif. – The Pacific women's basketball team completed its' best regular season in program history Saturday by winning the Big West title outright, posting a 59-54 victory at UC Davis.
Pacific finishes the regular season at 24-6 overall, 14-4 in the Big West. The Tigers' first conference title gives Pacific the number one seed in the Big West tournament and a bye to the semifinals.
Leading Pacific was Gena Johnson with 18 points, including a pair of clutch free throws with 24 seconds remaining. Senior Kendall Rodriguez added 16 points and sealed the game with a pair of free throws with seven seconds left. Senior Erica McKenzie also added a double-digit scoring night with 10 points.
The Tigers out-rebounded UC Davis 38-30, including a 14-6 advantage on the offensive glass. Pacific held UC Davis to 32 percent shooting in the second half.
Heading into the first media timeout with 15:49 left in the opening half, the Tigers trailed 6-4. The Tigers were just one-of-five from the field, with an Erica McKenzie three ball. However, it was the Tigers' defense that stepped up leaving UC Davis only one-of-three from the field. McKenzie would shoot three-of-seven in the first half for eight points.
Pacific claimed the lead for the first time on the night after trapping the Aggies in their own backcourt, forcing a turnover and earning a Hailie Eackles layup at the 10:16 mark. The bucket gave the Orange and Black an 18-17 advantage. However, it seemed UC Davis would take a 32-30 lead heading into the half, but a Kendall Rodriguez jumper to beat the buzzer knotted the halftime score at 32. The jumper gave Rodriguez a game-best 11 points at the break.
Pacific scored first on a Gena Johnson jumper to open the first half, and the teams would trade points to a 45-all tie in the second half with 8:43 left in the contest. However, the Tigers got a clutch jumper from Ashley Wakefield to fall giving Pacific the lead for good at 47-45 with 8:00 remaining.
Then, with the two-point advantage, Kendall Kenyon sunk two free throws. After a Pacific defensive stand, the Tigers got a great hustle play by Eackles diving out of bounds to keep the offensive possession alive that lead to a banked jumper from Brianna Johnson. The bank gave Pacific a 51-45 lead with 6:14 left in the second half.
UC Davis pulled within four, 53-49, with 4:02 to go, but Gena Johnson drove for two and the Tigers held the Aggies off the scoreboard until the 1:14 mark.
Johnson hit a pair of free throws with 24 seconds left to restore a seven-point lead. Molly Gruebel tallied for UC Davis, but Rodriguez sunk a pair of threes for another seven-point lead.
The Aggies' Sydnee Fipps tallied with two seconds to go, and the Tigers inbounded the ball and began their celebration as the clock hit triple-zero.
UC Davis falls to 11-17 overall, 7-11 in the Big West. The Aggies will be the number seven seed at the Big West tournament.
Pacific will enter the Big West tournament in the semifinals, advancing to Anaheim for the third-straight season. As the number one overall seed in the tournament, the Tigers will sit back and watch four teams fight through a four-team bracket in Irvine for the final two semifinal spots in Anaheim. Five seed Long Beach State will face the eight-seed Cal State Fullerton and UC Davis meets seven seed Cal State Northridge in the first round on Tuesday. The two winners will face three seed Hawai'i and four seed UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday at the Bren Events Center, with the two winners advancing to the semis in Anaheim. Pacific will face the lowest remaining seed to emerge from Irvine in the Big West semis on Friday at noon.