IRVINE, Calif. - Down by five in overtime with 46 seconds remaining, junior psychology major AJ John hit one of his career-high six threes to pull your Big West regular season champions within two. After UC Irvine committed a turnover on the ensuing possession, junior communication major TJ Shorts II nailed back-to-back free throws to send Saturday's Big West Conference game to double overtime, the third such game for the Aggies in their final eight games of the regular season.
And like those two previous occasions, UC Davis came up clutch with the regular season title on the line, and the No. 1 seed at the upcoming Big West Tournament by defeating UC Irvine in front of a sellout crowd of 5,000 by outscoring the Anteaters, 11-5, throughout the following five minutes of action to celebrate its third championship in the last four seasons thanks to a 90-84 victory.
-- Big West MBB (@BigWestMBB) March 4, 2018
"I can't say enough about how resilient and gritty this team is. They just hung together, and even through they were tired, everyone refused to lose," said head coach Jim Les.
A few CLUTCH plays down the stretch to secure the 🏆! pic.twitter.com/AWbbhzHYxI
— UCDavisMBB (@UCDavisMBB) March 4, 2018
UC Davis will enter postseason play -- as the regular season champions, it also earned the league's automatic berth at the National Invitation Tournament -- and head to the Honda Center for Thursday's league playoff quarterfinal vs. UC Riverside, with a 21-9 overall and 12-4 league record.
🎥 @UCDavisMBB junior AJ John:
🏀 Career-high 20 pts
🏀 Career-high 6 3PT-FG
🏀 Career-high 7 FGs
🏀 UCD clinches #BWC title
🏀 2OT W to clinch #1 #BWT seed
🏀 Interview with @OliviaGPhelps #GoAgs #PlayBig 💪 pic.twitter.com/SLt550oHJP
— Big West MBB (@BigWestMBB) March 4, 2018
For the sixth time in the last eight games, Shorts II finished with 20 or more points, and led all Aggies with 21, in addition to a game-high five assists and three steals. John hit six of his seven field goals from three to record his first 20-point game as an Aggies. All three are career-high figures. Also posting career-high numbers was junior economics major Garrison Goode, who hit 6 of 9 shots from the floor to leave the Bren Events Center with new career bests. Junior communication major Siler Schneider completed the Aggies' list of double-digit scorers by finishing wth 16.
In a game that featured 13 tied scores and 14 lead changes, it was a complete team effort that led to another conference crown. Sophomore economics major Joe Mooney, senior communication major Michael Onyebalu and junior human development major Colin Russell chipped in eight, seven and two points respectively.
Senior American Studies major Arell Hennings and sophomore communication major Rogers Printup also made key stops on defense, like their teammates, to defeat an team that entered Saturday's matchup, on its own court, with wins in eight of the last nine played.
It was a complete team effort that responded to a 13-0 UC Irvine (16-16, 11-5 BWC) run early in the second half with a 13-2 run of its own, forced tough looks for the Anteaters all night long, a crucial turnover in overtime that led to the game-tying points, and frustrated UC Irvine from start-to-finish in double OT by making them work for every point scored.
"Especially late, when they needed to score, we were awfully stingy and made it difficult for them to score," Les added.
It was the entire team that did a great job protecting the ball -- it committed only eight turnovers -- and capitalized on 14 UCI miscues, which led to 26 points.
With its win, the Big West's men's and women's basketball regular season champions hail from the same school for the first time in a decade.
Other quarterfinal matchups taking place in Anaheim on Thursday's are: Cal State Fullerton (#4 seed) vs. Long Beach State (#5), UC Irvine (#3) vs. Hawai'i (#6) and UC Santa Barbara (#2) vs. Cal Poly (#7).
UC DAVIS 90, UC IRVINE 84 (2OT)
UC DAVIS (21-9, 12-4 BWC)
Shorts II, TJ 6-18 8-12 21; John, AJ 7-12 0-1 20; Goode, Garrison 6-9 4-6 16; Schneider, Siler 6-12 3-5 16; Mooney, Joe 3-8 0-0 8; Onyebalu, Michael 2-5 2-2 7; Russell, Colin 1-1 0-0 2; Printup, Rogers 0-1 0-0 0; Hennings, Arell 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 31-67 17-26 90.
UC IRVINE (16-16, 11-5 BWC)
Leonard, Evan 9-15 1-4 22; Worku, Eyassu 4-8 3-4 13; Jones, Elston 5-7 0-0 10; Greene, Brad 3-5 2-2 8; Edgar Jr., John 2-7 4-5 8; Galloway, Jonathan 4-5 0-0 8; Hazzard, Max 2-12 0-0 6; Traylor, Darrian 1-1 2-2 5; Rutherford, Tommy 2-3 0-0 4; Welch, Riley 0-1 0-0 0; Davidian, Teo 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 32-64 12-17 84.
UC Davis...................... 32 37 10 11 - 90
UC Irvine..................... 35 34 10 5 - 84
3-point goals--UC Davis 11-25 (John, AJ 6-10; Mooney, Joe 2-6; Schneider, Siler 1-3; Onyebalu, Michael 1-2; Shorts II, TJ 1-4), UC Irvine 8-26 (Leonard, Evan 3-7; Hazzard, Max 2-8; Worku, Eyassu 2-5; Traylor, Darrian 1-1; Edgar Jr., John 0-5). Fouled out--UC Davis-None, UC Irvine-Rutherford, Tommy. Rebounds--UC Davis 36 (John, AJ 9), UC Irvine 40 (Galloway, Jonathan 9). Assists--UC Davis 16 (Shorts II, TJ 5), UC Irvine 13 (Worku, Eyassu 3; Edgar Jr., John 3; Rutherford, Tommy 3). Total fouls--UC Davis 20, UC Irvine 23. Technical fouls--UC Davis-None, UC Irvine-None. A-5000 UC Davis wins the regular season championship, will enter the Big West Tournament as its No. 1 seed
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