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DAVIS, Calif. - For the second time in the last six games, junior communication major TJ Shorts II came up clutch in crunch time by hitting the game-winning shot for UC Davis. Last time, it was his running three at Long Beach State that lifted the team to victory in double overtime. In Saturday's Big West Conference game vs. UC Riverside, the Aggie faithful were able to celebrate with Shorts II and his teammates as his (literal) last-second layup, hit with 0.9 seconds remaining, that gave them a 64-63 victory over UC Riverside.
UC Davis will enter the final week of the season with a 19-9 overall and 10-4 Big West record. Saturday's result is the team's seventh win in the last nine games.
"This group has a lot of confidence, I am excited for these guys," said UC Davis head coach Jim Les. "We are fighting, clawing and scratching for wins. The good teams find a way to win, even when they do not play their best."
Thanks to Shorts II's shot, UC Davis' chance to collect its third conference title in the last four years remains intact; if the Aggies win out, they will earn at least a split this season's regular season crown.
"TJ has really separated himself as a special player. There are not a lot of players who hit two game winners, especially during league season where every game carries a heightened level of importance. For him to do it twice, within a month ... his teammates have a lot of confidence in him.
Shorts II led all Aggies with 16 points, on 6 of 8 shooting, finished with a game-high four assists and two steals. For the third straight game, and the fifth time this season, junior psychology major AJ John ended with a career-high 13 points, with 12 of those earned from three by hitting 4 of 6 attempts. Senior communication major Michael Onyebalu posted 11 points and five rebounds with junior communication major Siler Schneider completed a list of Aggie double-digit scorers by ending with 10.
The decisive shot of the night took place immediately after UC Riverside center Menno Dijkstra gave his team its only lead of the second half by turning a two-point deficit into a one-point advantage when he hit a three with 5.7 seconds left in the game.
But that lead quickly disappeared because after UC Davis called timeout, John received the ensuing inbound pass from Shorts II, hit his teammate in stride (who ran with full momentum) with a perfectly placed bounce pass, before the crowd, and the Aggies' bench, erupted once his off-balanced layup fell through the basket.
Entering Saturday's game, UC Riverside won three of its previous five games, which included a road win at Hawai'i and a home triumph over Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday. The Highlanders, led by Chance Murray who finished with game highs of 24 points and six rebounds, fall to UC Riverside 8-20 and 3-11.
"Give them credit, (UC Riverside head coach) Justin (Bell) took over mid-season and has them playing well in a tough, tough predicament. They play hard, and we knew this was going to be a tough game."
UC DAVIS 64, UC RIVERSIDE 63
UC RIVERSIDE (8-20, 3-11 BWC)
Murray, Chance 7-17 7-9 24; Dijkstra, Menno 4-5 0-0 10; Sylvester, DJ 3-9 3-3 10; Rosser, Brandon 3-7 0-0 6; Martin, Dikymbe 2-8 0-0 4; Larsson, Alex 2-4 0-1 4; Flippin, Koh 1-1 0-0 3; Pickett, Dominick 1-2 0-0 2; Jackson, James 0-0 0-0 0; Diallo, Idy 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-54 10-13 63.
UC DAVIS (19-9, 10-4 BWC)
Shorts II, TJ 6-8 4-6 16; John, AJ 4-6 1-3 13; Onyebalu, Michael 4-7 0-0 11; Schneider, Siler 4-11 2-3 10; Mooney, Joe 2-5 2-2 8; Hennings, Arell 1-3 2-2 4; Goode, Garrison 1-1 0-0 2; Printup, Rogers 0-5 0-0 0; Russell, Colin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-46 11-16 64.
UC Riverside.................. 23 40 - 63
UC Davis........................ 33 31 - 64
3-point goals--UC Riverside 7-26 (Murray, Chance 3-11; Dijkstra, Menno 2-3; Flippin, Koh 1-1; Sylvester, DJ 1-5; Martin, Dikymbe 0-4; Rosser, Brandon 0-2), UC Davis 9-26 (John, AJ 4-6; Onyebalu, Michael 3-5; Mooney, Joe 2-5; Printup, Rogers 0-5; Hennings, Arell 0-2; Schneider, Siler 0-3). Fouled out--UC Riverside-None, UC Davis-None. Rebounds--UC Riverside 32 (Murray, Chance 6; Sylvester, DJ 6), UC Davis 27 (Shorts II, TJ 5; Onyebalu, Michael 5). Assists--UC Riverside 13 (Martin, Dikymbe 4), UC Davis 13 (Schneider, Siler 4; Shorts II, TJ 4). Total fouls--UC Riverside 20, UC Davis 21. Technical fouls--UC Riverside-None, UC Davis-None. A-2704
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