TULSA, Okla. - Chima Moneke led No. 16 seed UC Davis with 20 points, Brynton Lemar scored 17 points and recorded three of UC Davis' five steals in his final college game and Siler Schneider added another 10 points in Friday's Midwest Regional matchup at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla., a game the Aggies dropped, 100-62, to No. 1 seed Kansas on Friday.
''We just had as emotional a locker room as I've ever been a part of, and I've been a part of a lot of teams,'' UC Davis head coach Jim Les said. ''They accomplished a lot of wonderful feats, and I don't want this game to take away from (that). There's a lot to be grateful for.''
UC Davis entered its second NCAA Tournament game -- it defeated North Carolina Central by four points in Wednesday's First Four contest in Dayton, Ohio, to draw the regional's top seed -- with victories in seven of eight games, including last Saturday's Big West Conference Tournament championship game to punch its ticket to the Big Dance for the first time program history.
From the opening tip, the Aggies not only matched the Jayhawks' offensive output, but took the lead on two occasions in the first half before KU's 10-0 run helped it take the lead for good.
Les and senior Darius Graham provided one of the more emotional moments of the game, however, when the two embraced for nearly a minute after Graham exited the game with 1:45 remaining.
In addition to Lemar and Graham, J.T. Adenrele, Georgi Funtarov and Lawrence White all capped their outstanding careers in the school's first-ever appearance in a Division I regional.
HEAD COACH Jim Les: I don't want tonight and the outcome and the score to take away from what this group did. They put UC Davis basketball and UC Davis on the map, nationally, internationally. And they were just a special group.
And we just had as emotional locker room as I've ever been a part of, and I've been a part of a lot of teams. And just we as a staff appreciating all this group gave to us all year and all the things they overcame and how they bonded together and allowed us to push them. And they accomplished some wonderful feats that I don't want this game to take away.
There's only one team in this tournament that goes home happy. Unfortunately, it's not us, but there's a lot to be grateful for, and I'm going to be indebted to this group of Aggies for a long time. They've raised the bar for what UC Davis basketball is going to look like coming forward.
Q. Coach, you got that technical, and I don't know if it coincided with KU's run or just kind of explain sort of what happened after that. The game kinda got away from you guys then.
COACH LES: Yeah, it did. And I wish I could take back the technical, but it happened.
And you know, that's a good basketball team. So they got it going offensively. I thought they moved the ball really well. I thought -- you know, we missed some shots. We had some good looks during that run that just didn't go down. And you know, when they get it going, they're awfully impressive. Unfortunately, we weren't able to stem the tide, and I thought that run starting there leading to halftime gave them some pretty good separation, unfortunately.
Q. Brynton, I don't mean to revisit the locker room, but can you tell me what Jim Les and your brethren have meant to you these last four years?
Brynton Lemar: Yeah. They meant the world to me. Just being a kid from since I was 18 years old, I remember Coach Les recruited me. I just told him that and he said, This is your chance to make history if you come to UC Davis, and we made history. And I couldn't be prouder. The coaching staff, all the teammates I've played with through here, especially this team. This team is a very special team to me. We're very close niche, and I love every one of those guys inside the locker room.
And I don't know what other way we could go out, you know, making tournament, playing the No. 1 team in the country, Kansas, and competing. So we had a great experience, and this team means a lot. I could go on and on, but you know. But yeah, I just love everyone on this team, and I'm going to miss it. I'm not going to cry, though, but yeah.
Q. Coach, can you just discuss what, if anything, you were able to draw on your experience from when your time at Bradley, when you upset KU, in your game plan or any in your approach to this game?
COACH LES: Yeah. That really didn't have any impact in getting ready for this game, completely different teams, other than the respect I have for Coach Self and the teams and how he coaches and the talent he has and how versatile they are. It was going to be a tough challenge for us. So I couldn't be more proud of these guys and this group for their approach.
I don't think they were taken back by the moment. It was more so giving Kansas credit for how they executed and how they played and how good they are rather than it's a deterrent from UC Davis and who these guys are.
Q. Coach, do you look at this run getting to the tournament and see this as a springboard for better and bigger things to come? And also for the players, how do you see this moment propelling the program further as you look to the future?
Chima Moneke: This year was phenomenal, but next year everyone is going to come for us in our conference. It's going to be different. We're going to lose a lot of players. Brynton and the other seniors that will be gone, and we need people to step up and we'll need to rebuild and get back to work.
At the end of the day, it was a successful season. I can't imagine a better season for us, but it'll be different next year. Hopefully, we can come back and do this again.
Brynton Lemar: Yeah. I think this is going propel us, you know. I know the team next year, they're going to be driven. They're very hungry. They're going to have some -- they're going to have a chip on their shoulder to get back here. And we've got players leading the way like Chima and Siler and everybody.
And I'm excited to see what they're going to do next year, and I definitely know that they're going to bring that competitive spirit. It's not going to be the same us losing a lot of seniors and stuff like that, but I know guys on this team are going to step up, get better and want to get back in this tournament. And like Coach said, we kind of set the bar high, and this is the expectation, to come back here again every single year. So I know they're going to get there, so I have no doubt.
COACH LES: Well, I have -- this group of seniors was truly special, special not only in what they accomplished, but special in their approach every day, their work ethic, their willingness to do the extra, their willingness to be pushed and coached, their willingness to lead. And that's not just on the basketball floor. They competed hard in the classroom. They were unbelievable ambassadors for our university.
I can't tell you the number of emails and texts and phone calls I got about this group of guys and how they represented, in a first-class manner, our school and our community.
So I'm really going to miss -- it's going to be hard to replace that group. And as I told them in the locker room, two years ago there was a foundation laid when we won the Big West regular season. And now we need to take the next step, and the next step was taking this year with this group, and we're going to get back to work because we want to get back here. And now Chima knows what it takes, Siler knows what it takes. And they're going to become our leaders going forward, and we're going to reload, and we want to come back with a better seed and a better opportunity, and winning one game won't be enough.
And that's how you establish a program and keep pushing it to move forward, and we've got unbelievable support from our administration, from our chancellor to our athletic director that give us the confidence that we can continue to move forward.
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