Davis, CA -- It appeared that UC Davis would dominate Monday night's matchup against University of the Pacific as their average team height stands 5-11—giving a distinct advantage over the Tigers—however, the potential game of the bigs turned into a simple question of "Who wants it more?"
The Tigers answered that with a 66-53 win over the Aggies.
"UC Davis is a good team," said Bradley Davis, first-year head coach for Pacific. "They were bigger than us and had some strength on the inside, but we were able to use our quickness and athleticism to get the ball at the highest point... and it just came down to how bad they wanted it."
The Tigers (2-0), a former Big West Rival for the Aggies, were slow to start the game, and Davis (0-2) capitalized on the tempo, setting up their offense with ease and controlling the pace of the game.
Pacific's Hailie Eackles led all scorers with 17 points while Erin Butler pitched in 15 of her own on five made threes.
"I'm just thanking my passer," said Butler, Pacific senior. "I have people out there dropping dimes to me, hitting me with great looks and that's how you get good shots up. I'm just thanking the person next to me for getting me that pass."
Butler's impressive shooting performance was continued from last week's clinic she put on in the fourth quarter where she scored 11 of her 17 points in the season-opening win over CSU Bakersfield.
"We've started our season with two wins on the road, and we've got a long road here in November," said Davis.
At the end of the first quarter, UC Davis led the Tigers 17 to 13 with Pacific shooting 3-17 from the field.
Eackles finally got the teardrop to fall with her floater in the paint to go over Alyson Doherty, using the pump fake to her advantage.
Doherty, a strong force for the Aggies, sported a left black eye in the game—reflecting her style of play with the countless power moves in the paint and hustle to grab the boards.
She was called for two quick fouls in the second quarter and left the game frustrated shortly after.
"[Doherty] is just a stud," said Davis. "We had to make some adjustments off her in the second half. We wanted to run them a little bit and fatigue them to pick up the pace a bit."
And they did just that.
The Tigers completely controlled the second half of play, putting the Aggies on their heels after they lead at the half, 35-31.
Pacific shot 29% from the field in the first half of action and was still within 4 points of the Aggies going into the second half of play in due part to their scrappy play, outrebounding Davis for the night 35-27, regardless of the size mismatch.
"We decided to control the tempo in the second half, and that changed how the whole game went," said Butler.
Eackles opened the first possession of the second half with a deep three in the corner and again a few possessions later at the top of the key to own the first two baskets of the second half to shift a lead change and give the Tigers a two-point lead.
"Hailie and Erin have been great for us," said Davis. "We had some big plays at the basket early and then [Davis] went to a zone and forced us to shoot threes—and they were falling."
Unique Coleman kept the momentum going with a steal and a coast-to-coast layup, and the Tigers' momentum continued to roll in the fourth. Coleman returns to the team after sitting out last season due to an ACL tear.
"I'm feeling strong out there," said Coleman. "Definitely 100 percent now after surgery."
"She's huge for us," said Davis. "We let her play a little longer on the floor tonight... She wants to be out there more, but we are easing her into it."
Davis noted that although there are standout players on the team that the balance they have is a key component to their success.
"We have such a good balance in terms of getting to the basket and also being able to shoot the three," he said. "Our offense is smooth when that all clicks."
The Tigers take on Montana at 6 p.m. on Thursday in hopes of stretching their record to 3-0 as they battle their next game on the road in their six-straight opening away games.
"I'm not saying that's going to be easy, but the focus this team has and the love we have for each other will keep us on track," said Butler. "Being away from home and school is tricky, but I think we'll be fine."