Pacific, UC Irvine Advance To Saturday's Big West Tournament Final
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No. 4 UC Irvine Upsets No. 1 Long Beach State, Advances To Championship
UC Irvine used a 16-7 run in the final 3:40 to knock off top-seeded Long Beach State, 67-60, in a Big West Conference Tournament semifinal Friday night at the Honda Center.
With the victory, UCI advances to the league tourney championship game for the fourth time in history as the 'Eaters will face Friday's late winner between Pacific and Cal Poly Saturday night at 7:30 for a chance to gain the program's first berth into the NCAA Tournament. UCI has fallen in the championship game in its previous three appearances in 1988, 1994 and 2008.
The 'Eaters, 20-14 overall, have won eight of their last nine games and 10 of their last 13. The 20 victories are the program's most wins since the 2002-03 team finished 20-9. UCI is 5-5 all-time versus Long Beach State in the Big West Tournament.
UCI freshman point guard Alex Young scored a game-high 18 points and added four assists in Friday night's win over the 49ers, scoring nine points in each half.
Sophomore post Will Davis II had 14 points, hitting 6 of 8 shots, and pulled down nine rebounds plus had three blocked shots for UCI. Junior guard Chris McNealy registered 13 points and seven rebounds as he made his third consecutive start in place of the injured Adam Folker.
Senior guard Daman Starring recorded seven points, seven assists and three steals. Starring had a sweet feed on a Davis dunk with 35 seconds left to give UCI a 63-57 lead and he hit a pair of free throws with 26.9 seconds remaining go push the 'Eaters' lead back to five.
Young's three from the left corner, off a Starring assist, with 3:40 left gave UCI the lead for good at 54-53.
Starring then scored three straight points, including a layup with 2:05 remaining for a 57-53 lead.
Mike Caffey, who scored nine of Long Beach State's last 11 points, hit a jumper with 1:42 left to cut the 'Eaters' lead to two at 57-55, but Davis converted inside at 1:24 and Young hit two free throws with 1:08 remaining to give UCI a 61-55 lead.
Tony Freeland and Keala King led the 49ers with 15 points each, Caffey scored 14 and James Ennis 11.
UCI led 29-28 at halftime, which originally was a 32-28 score until a late three by Starring was disallowed due to a shot-clock violation.
Long Beach State went up by seven points twice in the second half, the last time at 43-36 with 14:32 left on a basket by King, and the 49ers still led by six at 49-43 on a bucket from Dan Jennings with 6:57 remaining before UCI began its late surge.
Travis Souza then canned a three from the left corner with 6:04 left to launch the stretch run by the 'Eaters.
UCI committed just seven turnovers in the game and hit 13 of 15 free throws in the game, including 10 of 11 in the second half.
The 'Eaters shot 43 percent from the field and Long Beach State 42 percent. UCI was 6 of 20 from three-point range and the 49ers 5 of 17. The 49ers, who hit 5 of 9 free throws for the game, outrebounded UCI, 40-28.
"I'm really proud of my squad right now and I'm excited for the opportunity that we have for tomorrow," UCI head coach Russell Turner said.
"Tonight's game was like a lot of our games, it was close and we grinded it out with outstanding defense. My guys made stops and we got the rebounds there in the second half which we weren't getting in the first half. I couldn't be prouder of the effort that my team put forth," Turner added.
"We didn't turn the ball over. Two of our turnovers were team turnovers and one was the last play of the first half. If you don't turn it over, Long Beach can't run and that's a credit to our team. If you have 14 assists and seven turnovers, you feel like you're going to win that game," Turner said.
Pacific Defeats Cal Poly On Fulton's Last-Second Putback, Advance to Championship Game
A putback from senior Travis Fulton with 1.3 seconds left lifted the Pacific men's basketball team to the Championship Game of the Big West Tournament with a 55-53 victory over Cal Poly. The Tigers improved to 21-12 on the season.
The Tigers took an early 4-0 lead after baskets by Fulton and senior Colin Beatty. With the Tigers leading 6-4, CP used an 8-2 run to take a 12-8 lead with 11:37 to play. A jumper by junior Ross Rivera and a pair of free throws by junior Tony Gill evened it up at 12-12. The teams traded baskets until it was 18-18, when senior Rodrigo De Souza hit one of two free throws to give the Tigers a 19-18 lead with 2:59 to play. The Mustangs got a basket from Dylan Royer to go up 20-19, before Fulton hit a jumped to make it 21-20 Pacific with 1:33 left. Chris Eversley scored and added a free throw to give CP a 23-21 lead that it would take to the break. The lead changed hands five times and was tied six times, as neither team led by more than four points in the first half.
Cal Poly pushed its lead to four with a basket to start the second half, but the Tigers evened up at 25-25 after a pair of layups from Gill and senior Lorenzo McCloud. The Mustangs pushed ahead again 33-30, but four straight points from Rivera gave the lead back to the Tigers at 34-33 with 11:39 to play. A layup by Chris O'Brien gave the lead back to the Mustangs (35-34), but the Tigers countered with a 7-2 stretch capped by a three-pointer from Gill to make it a 41-37 lead with 7:55 to go. Cal Poly then scored five straight, on another jumper from O'Brien and a three-pointer from Dylan Royer. Fulton hit one of two free throws to even it for the 11th time at 45-45 with 3:43 to play. The Tigers countered four points on the next two Cal Poly possessions with a pair of big three-pointers from Gill to lead 51-49 with just 2:00 remaining. Everseley knocked down a corner jumper and O'Brien hit a pair of free throws to give CP a 53-51 lead with 1:00 left, but McCloud scored on a layup to even it up at 53-53 for the 14th and final time with :50 seconds to play. After a CP miss, the Tigers held for the final shot. McCloud drove to the right baseline, pulling up for a fade-away jumper with under three seconds to go. The shot bounced into the middle of the key, where Fulton jumped, caught the ball out of mid-air and put back the miss to give the Tigers the victory. A three-quarters court heave by Drake U'u was well short as time expired. Fulton's put-back accounted for the 18th lead change in the game.
Gill led the Tigers with 20 points, while Fulton added 12 points. Eversley led Cal Poly with 12 points.
The Tigers shot 44.2% from the field, but an outstanding 55.0% (11-20) in the second half. Pacific was out-rebounded 29-23, with the Mustangs out-scoring Pacific 9-2 in second chance points from eight offensive rebounds. The Tigers' only second chance points ended up being the most important.
The Tigers will face UC Irvine on Saturday, March 16 at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2 in the championship game.