Feb. 23, 2013
DAVIS, Calif. - Trailing by one with 14.5 seconds remaining in Saturday's non-conference game at The Pavilion, Paolo Mancasola drilled the game-winning basket with 1.8 seconds left on the clock to lift UC Davis to a 79-78 victory over Northern Colorado.
The win improves UC Davis' record to 12-14 and drops Northern Colorado to 9-17.
Fans attending Saturday's Ramada Worldwide BracketBusters game presented by ESPN were treated to a thrilling conclusion when Northern Colorado took a 78-77 lead on Paul Garnica's three with 14.5 seconds left.
Screaming and thumping his chest in excitement after UC Davis called a timeout to design the last play of the game, little did he know that Mancasola would soon steal his game-winning spotlight by sinking the deciding basket.
With the clock winding down, Corey Hawkins tried to find a path to the basket alongside the baseline only to meet an array of Bears who stood tall and held their ground.
It was then when the sophomore guard wrapped a pass around three Northern Colorado defenders to find a wide open Mancasola near the free throw line.
Keenly aware of clock, Mancasola immediately launched his shot, one that touched nothing but twine to send the Aggie faithful to their feet screaming in delight.
"I was standing right under the basket when he (Mancasola) shot it, I knew it was good when it left his hands. I just did not want to celebrate too early," said Hawkins.
Said Mancasola regarding the game-winning play, "I could not believe he (Hawkins) had the awareness to find me with three guys standing all around him. I had to put it in for him."
Mancasola's clutch field goal was the only one recorded by the senior guard throughout the game.
Hawkins led all scorers with 34 points, J.T. Adenrele finished one rebound shy of earning his second straight double-double and finished with 18 points, and Tyler Les recorded his second team-high total of the season by finishing with eight of the Aggies' 19 assists.
Bears guard Tate Unruh finished with a team-high 21 points and tied his career high with five three-point field goals. Responsible for 19 of his team's 39 first-half points, the Aggies made the necessary adjustments at the break and held the redshirt junior to only one basket for the rest of the afternoon.
"I think you saw tonight, in spurts, two teams that found their offensive rhythm and made it tough for the other to make defensive stops. It was just a matter of who had the ball last and fortunately, it was us," said head coach Jim Les.
Continued J. Les: "Corey (Hawkins) made an unbelievable read (to Mancasola), give him credit for drawing a lot of attention. We wanted to give him a touch to make a basketball play; he can score by turning the corner on a baseline play, but their stance was 'Corey is not going to beat us today' and they threw the kitchen sink at him.
"I cannot say enough for Paolo to have the guts to take that shot. His only two points prior to that play were free throws, for him to take that shot with confidence was huge."
In addition to Mancasola's memorable shot, it was a play made by Adenrele with 31 seconds remaining that that helped UC Davis preserve its then-two-point lead.
The sophomore forward made a key block, the last of his three earned, on a layup from Garnica that had two easy points written all over it.
Sliding over from the weakside, Adenrele could have easily swatted Garnica's shot 10 rows deep into the stands to create an unforgettable highlight-quality play. Instead, he wisely corralled the ball into his arms by grabbing it out of midair with one hand to create another offensive opportunity for his team.
Both teams possessed connected on over 60 percent of their shots in the second half, nearly matching one another from the floor. Throughout the final 20 minutes of action, Northern Colorado was 15 of 24 (62.5 pct.) and trailed an Aggie offense that finished with a slightly higher margin of success by making 16 of its 25 (64 pct.) attempts.
With the win, UC Davis has split its six BracketBusters games played since becoming a full-fledged Division I program. In addition to Saturday's win over Northern Colorado, its second straight over a Big Sky opponent in this event, the Aggies defeated Northern Arizona on its own floor last season and Boise State on the road in 2010.
"This team is all about finding ways to win. You can see them grow and mature as we head down the stretch with some big conference games ahead," said J. Les.