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Page 2 from the #BWT: CSUN, UC Davis, Cal State Fullerton, UC Irvine Look To Go Dancing


by Jill Painter Lopez


UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton both advanced to the championship game of the Big West Men’s Basketball Tournament Presented by MemorialCare to make an all-Orange County matchup for the first time in a decade.

It’s the second time that’s happened. The last time both teams played in the final was 2008. Honda Center in Anaheim should be a festive atmosphere with both teams expected to “travel” well, which means a short drive for fans of both schools.

“I think the all-Orange County final means a lot more to the fans than the players,” UC Irvine coach Russell Turner said. “I think our players know they’re playing for a championship and an opportunity to advance to the Big Dance. That’s meaningful to these guys and both universities. I’m happy that UC Irvine is part of this game (Saturday). I’m happy for our fans and our community. I’m excited to see the crowd that we can create and also the one that Fullerton can create. I expect a great college basketball environment (Saturday) and a great game.”

UC Irvine edged UC Santa Barbara 61-58 in the semifinals to advance to the tournament championship for the second straight year and four of the last six. The No. 3 seed Anteaters (18-16) will play in their seventh tournament championship game in history. 

The fourth-seeded Titans (19-11) haven’t been to the championship game since that 2008 contest that they won to advance to the NCAA Tournament. This will be Fullerton’s fifth tournament championship in school history.


UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton knocked off the top two seeds to make the all-Orange County championship. 


They say it’s difficult to beat a three times in one season but not for Cal State Fullerton.

With the Titans’ win over top seed UC Davis in the semifinals of the Big West Men’s Basketball Tournament Presented by MemorialCare, it marked the third time they beat the Aggies. Fullerton collected wins at home, on the road and on a neutral court at Honda Center on Saturday. 

Fullerton avenged its 2017 Big West Tournament semifinals loss to UC Davis.


Asked if a budding rivalry was forming, Davis coach Jim Les had a one-word answer:


The teams certainly seem to not like each other much and that was evident early. There was a double technical called in the first half and players had a minor skirmish in the early going. It was a physical game and the Titans withstood that.

“Games like that are always fun,” Titans guard Khalil Ahmad said. “Neither team wanted to go home.”



Jason Flowers will be coaching CSUN in the championship game of the Big West Women’s Basketball Tournament Presented by MemorialCare for the third time in the last six years. He led the Matadors to wins in 2014 and 2015, and thus, the automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament. 

CSUN was dominant from start to finish in a 73-50 victory over Cal Poly in the semifinals on Friday. 

“I would say wholeheartedly it’s not me,” Flowers said. “I’ve been blessed with an opportunity to lead young people. I’ve been blessed with young people who will take being challenged and respond in the right way. That’s a process. That foundation was laid before they got to us. I’m blessed to be surrounded by a great staff that will one day be great coaches. I’m blessed to be part of a support team from the trainer to strength and conditioning to administration. I wanted to build a culture and do things a certain way, but it’s definitely not me. God has blessed me tremendously and I reap the benefits every single day with the people around me.”

Tessa Boagni led the Matadors with 19 points and two-time Big West MVP Channon Fluker added 14 to help put CSUN back in the championship game.


The No. 1 seed Aggies didn’t do it the easy way, but they made plays down the stretch under the strength of their veterans to down UC Riverside 49-46 in the semifinals Thursday in the Big West Women’s Basketball Tournament Presented by MemorialCare at Honda Center.


Junior Morgan Bertsch made a nice move in the low post and scored on a layup for the game-winner with 18 seconds left. The Highlanders had a chance to tie the game, but UC Riverside didn’t get a shot off. Lauren Holt was driving the lane to shoot a layup but didn’t get the shot off in time and needed a 3-pointer to tie it anyway.


“I missed a lot of layups I can pretty much make with my eyes closed,” Bertsch said. “It was a little frustrating. My teammates were telling me, ‘you’re going to hit this.’ ... Thankfully, that one went in when those others didn’t.”

Davis, which had a double bye until the semifinals, tipped off the noon game and trailed by 6 at halftime.


Davis (25-5), which lost in the semifinals as the top seed last year, plays CSUN (18-15) for the championship Saturday at Honda Center.


The Gauchos (23-9) had a great season in Joe Pasternack’s first season as coach, making a remarkable turnaround of 17 wins from the previous season. It was the best turnaround in the country from one year to the next. They came oh-so-close to advancing to the Big West championship game, which comes with an opportunity to earn an automatic NCAA Tournament bid. 

Last year’s six wins is a thing of the past. UCSB nearly made the final and led for 21 minutes of the semifinal game against UC Irvine. UCSB, however, missed its final nine shots of the game and 13 of its last 14 as the Anteaters advanced. 

“Sometimes shots don’t fall,” senior Leland King II said. “We got good looks. They didn’t fall at the right time. It happens, but we competed today and that’s all you can care about and worry about. Offense sometimes won’t be there. Unfortunately, the ball didn’t bounce our way.”

When asked if UCSB would consider playing in another postseason tournament, Pasternack said no. 


Michelle Curry nearly had UC Riverside in the Big West Women’s Basketball Tournament presented by MemorialCare championship game. The No. 6 seed Highlanders had top seed UC Davis on the ropes early, after building a 10-point lead. It was a close game down the stretch, but UC Riverside lost by three points and didn’t get a shot off before the final buzzer.

Curry, a senior, played her final game for the Highlanders (11-22) yet didn’t have the ball in her hands at the end.  But she did most of the tournament. Curry had a double double in all three games and had a tournament-high 40 points in UCR’s quarterfinal win over UC Irvine.

“I was determined,” Curry said. “We fell short, but I thought about my determination. I could’ve done better. The team played hard. If not for the team, we wouldn’t have been at where we are. Everyone put in work.”

Curry had 21 points and 10 rebounds in the semifinals on Friday. In three games, she scored 81 points and had 33 rebounds. She missed a triple double by just three assists in the first round. 

“She’s a better person than basketball player. Seriously,” UC Riverside coach John Margaritis said. “Her ability showed. She just played hard. She was always hurting (because of injuries). She can only go for so many minutes. She’s pushed herself beyond that point and played well. We played her a lot of minutes, and we needed for her to play a lot of minutes and produce. She’s a very special young lady. We will miss her, obviously.”


UC Davis won the regular season conference title and saw its record fall to 22-10 after getting upset in the Big West Men’s Basketball Tournament presented by MemorialCare by Cal State Fullerton.

There’s still more to come for TJ Shorts II and Co. The Aggies will play in the NIT, after they received the Big West’s automatic bye to the postseason tournament by winning the regular season conference title. 

UC Davis, down by one, had forward Garrison Goode at the line for two free-throw attempts with 6 seconds left. He had the opportunity to try to tie the game and put the team ahead, but neither free throw would fall. 

That’s not the end of the Aggies’ story since they’ll continue to play in the postseason.

Last year, UC Davis won the Big West Tournament title and played in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. 

“We talked about this not defining who we are as individuals,” Davis coach Jim Les said. “I told (Goode) I’d like to have a lot of decisions back that ultimately all lead to the outcome. These guys all give their heart and soul to me every day. They’re coachable, they’re great ambassadors for being student-athletes. This game sometimes is tough. What I love is that every time this group has been shown some adversity they’ve always bounced back well.”


The Cal Poly women’s basketball team never fully recovered from the Norovirus that ravaged the team in Hawaii - where it was for its final regular season game - over the weekend.


Coach Faith Mimnaugh said she and five players were vomiting (one of the most common symptoms associated with the virus), so they were not allowed to fly.

Mimnaugh said she was kicked off her flight to Los Angeles Sunday before it took off because she was vomiting. She and a trainer stayed back with players. Assistant coaches and other players flew home, but several members of the team started throwing up during the flight and had to go to a hospital in Torrance to get intravenous fluids.


“I’d like to clobber someone in Hawaii, whoever gave this to us,” Mimnaugh said. 

Mimnaugh was understandably upset considering the timing of the illness that struck her team. 

“What the doctor (in Hawaii) said was that it was the Norovirus and it was from whoever handled our food,” Mimnaugh said. “It was a quick-acting virus. Not sure which restaurant it was because we went to two different ones after the game. We weren’t sure if it was something we ate or the person that handled our food. It was so speedy. It went through our team like wildfire. I guess you can’t fly when you’re vomiting, so we had to get a doctors note to fly. There were five of us who stayed Sunday night and flew back Monday and got home late Monday night.”

Mimnaugh gave her team Tuesday off and tried to return to practice Wednesday. The Mustangs were lucky in that they earned more rest via a double bye to Friday’s semifinals as the second seed, but it still didn’t seem to help.

“There was absolutely no way we could’ve played Tuesday or Wednesday,” Mimnaugh said. “We tried to practice Wednesday, but we were pretty terrible. By Wednesday, Devin (Stanback) and (Dye) Stahley were still throwing up. We weren’t 100 percent today, but that’s the breaks.”

The twins, Lynn and Dynn Leaupepe and assistant coach Kari Duperron were among the few who didn’t get sick.

Traveling back from Hawaii, which is a five-hour flight, proved to be difficult, for those who made the flight and those who didn’t.

In order to get cleared to fly, one must have gone three hours vomit-free.


“I was kicked off because I was vomiting and five players got kicked off our flight home,” Mimnaugh said. “Our trainer wasn’t sick and stayed back with us. We made the trip to the hospital and got IVs and the rest of the team flew home. Four to five kids were vomiting on the plane. Two were in the hospital in Torrance. Others tried to get home to San Luis Obispo. Two others in San Luis Obispo got the virus. There were more people who were sick than didn’t get sick. The twins were lucky.”