ANAHEIM, Calif. - Trailing 42-37 in Saturday's championship game at the Big West Tournament, UC Davis scored nine unanswered points and held its lead for the rest of the game as the Aggies left the Honda Center as the league's tournament champs and representative at the upcoming NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament thanks to their 50-47 victory over UC Irvine.
UC Davis, the Big West Tournament's No. 2 seed, will discover its next opponent once revealed by NCAA officials during Sunday's 2:30 p.m. Selection Show, and enter that game with a 22-12 overall record. UC Irvine, the top seed at this weekend's event at the Honda Center, will return to action at the National Invitation Tournament with a 21-14 record.
"I could not be more excited for this group of young men who have been a joy to coach, and have allowed [the coaching staff] to push and challenge them," said UC Davis head coach Jim Les.
"We weren't always pretty defensively, but our defense won these games. Defense is underrated and overlooked, but the players brought their hard hat with them for every game."
Thanks to their swarming defense, the Aggies entered halftime with a 24-16 lead, holding the Anteaters to the fewest points scored in any half, of any game played, this season.
Seven lead changes took place before UC Davis took the lead for good thanks to that late scoring burst. Lemar's layup cut his team's deficit to three; three free throws from Big West first team selections Lemar and Moneke pulled the Aggies even at 42-42 -- the only tied score that took place in the second half.
Another layup and back-to-back free throws from Lemar pushed the Aggies' lead to four with 1:30 remaining in the game, stunning Anteater supporters who comprised most of the 5,085 fans in attendance.
A deep three from Luke Nelson brought UC Irvine within one, with nine ticks remaining, but back-to-back shots from the stripe from Lemar brought UC Davis' advantage back to three at 50-47, the game's final score.
Moneke ended his first Big West tournament with nine points at seven rebounds, Lawrence White posted six points and in addition to shutting down UCI's post players all night long, J.T. Adenrele grabbed four rebounds.
Siler Schneider led all Aggie reserves with seven points, Mikey Henn scored two points, in addition to collecting four rebounds, Garrison Goode ended his night with six boards and Arell Hennings scored four points and earned a team-high three assists.
"Last night's overtime game took a lot out of us," said Les. "After that battle, I was not sure what we were going to have in the tank today. But we, as a staff, went to our bench and said `you guys need to buy us some minutes, come in, play with confidence, and do it on the defensive end.'
"They made hustle plays and gave us unbelievable life; they let us rest our starters who played heavy minutes last night so they could make that stretch run in the second half."
Added Les, "big credit for this championship goes to those bench players who really stepped up."
For the latest information regarding UC Davis' upcoming NCAA Tournament run, follow the team on its Twitter handle, @UCDavisMBB.
UC DAVIS 50, UC IRVINE 47
UC DAVIS (22-12)
Lemar, Brynton 7-15 5-6 20; Moneke, Chima 3-7 3-6 9; Schneider, Siler 3-7 1-3 7; White, Lawrence 2-6 0-0 6; Hennings, Arell 1-2 2-2 4; Adenrele, J.T. 1-4 0-0 2; Henn, Mikey 1-2 0-0 2; Goode, Garrison 0-3 0-0 0; Onyebalu, Michael 0-0 0-0 0; Graham, Darius 0-6 0-1 0. Totals 18-52 11-18 50.
UC IRVINE (21-14)
Nelson, Luke 6-16 0-0 14; Rutherford, Tommy 5-6 1-1 11; Dimakopoulos,Ioannis 3-8 4-4 10; Martin, Jaron 1-4 0-0 3; Smith, Brandon 1-4 1-2 3; Greene, Brad 1-2 0-0 2; Rivers, Spencer 1-2 0-0 2; Hazzard, Max 1-1 0-0 2; Worku, Eyassu 0-4 0-0 0; Edgar Jr., John 0-0 0-0 0; Galloway, Jonathan 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 19-50 6-7 47.
UC Davis...................... 24 26 - 50
UC Irvine..................... 16 31 - 47
3-point goals--UC Davis 3-10 (White, Lawrence 2-2; Lemar, Brynton 1-3; Schneider, Siler 0-2; Hennings, Arell 0-1; Henn, Mikey 0-1; Graham, Darius 0-1), UC Irvine 3-12 (Nelson, Luke 2-7; Martin, Jaron 1-2; Dimakopoulos,Ioannis 0-1; Rivers, Spencer 0-1; Worku, Eyassu 0-1). Fouled out--UC Davis-None, UC Irvine-None. Rebounds--UC Davis 35 (Moneke, Chima 7), UC Irvine 35 (Nelson, Luke 8). Assists--UC Davis 8 (Hennings, Arell 3), UC Irvine 8 (Nelson, Luke 4). Total fouls--UC Davis 12, UC Irvine 23. Technical fouls--UC Davis-None, UC Irvine-None. A-5085