March 8, 2012
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Senior Eddie Miller scored a team-high 17 points to lead eighth-seeded UC Davis during Thursday's Big West Tournament quarterfinals, but top-seeded Long Beach State countered with a balanced scoring attack to beat the Aggie men's basketball team 80-46 at Honda Center.
UC Davis, making its first visit to the conference tournament since 2010, finished with a 5-26 record. Sophomore guard Tyler Les hit a trio of three-pointers and scored nine points for the Aggies, finishing with season 82 treys, just one shy of Fowzi Abdelsamad's school record (2004-05).
Eugene Phelps scored 18 points to lead the 49ers who improved to 23-8 and advanced to play No. 6 UC Irvine on Friday night. T.J. Robinson added 12 points while James Ennis, Casper Ware and Peter Pappageorge each had 11.
The Aggies trailed just 15-12 midway through the first half after a pair of free throws from Miller but Long Beach State responded with a 26-9 run over the final 10 minutes to take a 41-21 halftime lead. UC Davis was able to get to within 18 points early in the second half but the 49ers went on a 13-4 run to go up 55-27 with 13:58 to go.
The 49ers shot 47.6 percent (30 for 63) from the field, outrebounded the Aggies 39-28 and had just five turnovers.
"(Long Beach) showed why they're a very good basketball team," said Aggie coach Jim Les. "They have a number of weapons. We tried to take Casper Ware out of production and other guys stepped up. They're sound offensively, they rebound the basketball very well and they're a very underrated defensive basketball team with their length and athleticism.
"My hat's off to them," he added. "And my hat goes off to the Big West. This is an outstanding tournament and a great venue."
UC Davis played the 49ers tough over the first 10 minutes of the game, yielding the 49ers an early 11-2 lead before Harrison Dupont hit a jumper and freshman J.T. Adenrele scored on a layup to make it 11-6. Trailing 14-6, the Aggies rattled off six of the game's next seven points - four of them from Miller - to get to within 15-12 with 10:20 remaining.
Ware, though, canned a three-pointer to start a 10-0 run over the next four minutes that opened the lead to 25-12. Miller broke the string with a a layup but Long Beach State scored 12 of the next 14 points to lead 37-26 late in the half. It led 41-21 at intermission.
Phelps went 7 for 7 from the field and had 15 points in the first half while Ware had nine points. Miller had 10 points for UC Davis which had 11 turnovers that led to 19 points.
"We talked before the game about not handing them offense," said Les. "Not only are the turnovers killers because you don't get too many opportunities to score but those turnovers create offense for them, they get out and run and now we can't set our defense and make them play five on five.
"It's kind of a dual sword (in) that we got in trouble just not taking care of the basketball," he added. "Part of that was us but a big part of it was their defense, their activity. They're quick to the ball. they're long and they're athletic."
UC Davis played hard throughout the second half, picking up the first points on a layup from Adenrele to make it 41-23 before Long Beach State increased its lead. The 49ers, who shot 53.3 percent for the game, finished at 47.6 percent.
The Aggies had five three-pointers in the game, falling just four shy of the school's season record of 244 set in 2008-09.
The game also brought to an the careers of seniors Miller and Adam Malik. Malik had five points, including a long three-pointer in the game's final seconds. Miller finished two seasons with the Aggies with 631 points and 254 rebounds. Malik had 58 three-pointers in his career.
UC Davis also concluded its first season under Les who also coached his son, Tyler, for the first time.
"I wish our record would've been better but it was great, not only because he's my father but because he's a great coach," Tyler Les said. "He knows his stuff. He's won at the highest level but I think it's also strengthened our relationship off the court. I'm really glad he's here, I'm really glad he's here to stay and I'm excited about the future."
UC Davis had an improved final part of the season, winning four of six games toward the end of the schedule. The Aggies highlighted the late run with a 21-point comeback win at Northern Arizona on Feb. 13, and then an exciting 78-75 win over second-place Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 25. The Aggies also turned back rival Pacific.