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ANAHEIM, Calif. - Sophomore economics major Joe Mooney scored 12 of his career-high 15 points before halftime (a total that was half the points scored by all UC Riverside players combined at the break), and junior communication major TJ Shorts II hit two free throws in the final second (literally), to help UC Davis advance to Friday's semifinal round, thanks to a 70-66 victory in Thursday's Big West Tournament quarterfinal.
"In March, it's all about 'survive and advance.' ... I really liked it when we absolutely had to make plays and get stops, I thought the guys really stepped up, and it came from a lot of different places," said head coach Jim Les.
Thursday's game was the first time Mooney led the team in scoring, and his effort in the first half was a key reason why UC Davis took the lead for good, thanks to a 14-1 run which spanned three minutes and 34 seconds. Throughout that timespan, the Aggies made five stops, saw Mooney score five straight, followed by layups from Shorts II, junior psychology major AJ John and senior communication major Michael Onyebalu.
"I was able to find my rhythm. TJ was able to get into the paint, and [UCR's] defense was collapsing on him, which led to a couple of my shots falling," said Mooney, who outscored the Highlanders bench singlehandedly, 15-8.
An Onyebalu free throw and another layup from Shorts II, the Big West's Player and Newcomer of the Year, pushed the Aggies' advantage to a double-digit margin before UCR ended UC Davis' scoring streak at 12 straight.
A late 6-1 UC Riverside push trimmed a seven-point lead to two, but it was UC Davis' free throw shooting that helped them maintain their lead until the final buzzer. Of the Aggies' final six shots at the stripe, capped by Shorts II, who played in front of a hometown crowd having grown up in nearby Tustin, UC Davis advanced to the Big West semifinals for the third time in the last four years, and collected its 22nd win — the third-highest in its Division I history.
Thursday's result also gave the Aggies their first postseason win vs. the Highlanders. UC Riverside won all three games played — 1969 West Regional Consolation, 1975 West Regional First Round and most recently, at the 1995 West Regional — when both programs competed at the D-II level.
In addition to winning all three games against UC Riverside this season, the Aggies have now won 10 of their last 12 overall, eight of the last nine head-to-head games vs. UCR, and will enter Friday's 6:30 p.m. semifinal with a 22-9 overall record.
Including this Big West Tournament quarterfinal, UC Davis is 7-1 when holding opponents between 60-69 points, and 18-1 when they hold them to under 70 points.
As the Tournament's No. 1 seed, UC Davis will play in the first of two semifinal contests taking place inside the Honda Center Friday night. Since it will square off against the lowest remaining seed, the opponent for that matchup was not determined at the time of this release.
Other quarterfinal games taking place on Thursday include Cal State Fullerton (#4) vs. Long Beach State (#5), UC Irvine (#3) vs. Hawai'i (#6) and UC Santa Barbara (#2) vs. Cal Poly (#7).
UC DAVIS 70, UC RIVERSIDE 66
UC RIVERSIDE (9-22)
Murray, Chance 8-18 3-6 22; Martin, Dikymbe 4-9 3-3 13; Larsson, Alex 4-7 3-4 11; Rosser, Brandon 4-8 2-4 10; Jackson, James 1-1 1-2 3; Pickett, Dominick 1-1 0-0 3; Flippin, Koh 0-7 2-2 2; Dijkstra, Menno 1-3 0-0 2; Diallo, Idy 0-1 0-0 0; Hickman, Alec 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-55 14-21 66.
UC DAVIS (22-9)
Shorts II, TJ 5-10 5-7 15; Mooney, Joe 4-8 5-7 15; John, AJ 4-9 3-3 13; Onyebalu, Michael 3-4 4-5 11; Schneider, Siler 3-9 3-4 9; Goode, Garrison 2-5 0-2 4; Hennings, Arell 1-1 0-0 3; Printup, Rogers 0-1 0-0 0; Russell, Colin 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 22-49 20-28 70.
UC Riverside.................. 24 42 - 66
UC Davis........................ 35 35 - 70
3-point goals--UC Riverside 6-21 (Murray, Chance 3-8; Martin, Dikymbe 2-4; Pickett, Dominick 1-1; Flippin, Koh 0-7; Dijkstra, Menno 0-1), UC Davis 6-17 (Mooney, Joe 2-5; John, AJ 2-6; Hennings, Arell 1-1; Onyebalu, Michael 1-2; Printup, Rogers 0-1; Schneider, Siler 0-1; Shorts II, TJ 0-1). Fouled out--UC Riverside-Martin, Dikymbe, UC Davis-None. Rebounds--UC Riverside 33 (Larsson, Alex 7), UC Davis 32 (John, AJ 5; Shorts II, TJ 5; Onyebalu,Michael 5). Assists--UC Riverside 11 (Murray, Chance 5), UC Davis 13 (Shorts II, TJ 7). Total fouls--UC Riverside 22, UC Davis 17. Technical fouls--UC Riverside-None, UC Davis-None.
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