UC Davis has been here before.
The Aggies men’s basketball team reached the Big West Conference tournament semifinals for the second time in the past three seasons and looks to reach the tournament championship game for the first time in school history.
After defeating Cal Poly 66-55 Thursday afternoon at the Honda Center in Anaheim, the second-seeded Aggies will play Cal State Fullerton on Friday at 9 p.m.
In Thursday’s victory, the Aggies never trailed but survived an 11-0 Cal Poly run that tied the score 34-34 early in the second half. Three-pointers by Darius Graham and Brynton Lemar on back-to-back possessions midway through the second half helped UC Davis regain the momentum.
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“As the game went on, I just told myself, ‘Be aggressive,’ and I knew my teammates had my back and I had their backs,” Lemar said afterward.
Lemar scored a team-high 18 points. Chima Moneke hauled in 18 rebounds to go with his 11 points. Lawrence White had 13 points and nine rebounds. UCD outrebounded Cal Poly 47-31.
Trailing by 11 in the second half, the Mustangs cut the deficit to 57-53 with less than two minutes to play. UCD, however, used a 9-2 run to pull away.
The Aggies’ offense struggled early, going 5 1/2 minutes without scoring during one stretch in the first half. UCD stepped up on defense and allowed just four points during the drought.
“We’ve been preaching defense for a long time, and when these guys are locked in like that, they are awfully hard to score on,” said UCD coach Jim Les.
The Aggies lost their last trip to the semifinals 65-58 to Hawaii in 2015.
Seventh-seed Cal Poly ended its season 11-20.
Eastern Washington 89, Sacramento State 70 in Reno – The season ended for the Hornets, who fell to the second-seeded Eagles in the Big Sky Conference tournament quarterfinals.
Sac State, seeded seventh, could not build off its 91-76 first-round win against Idaho State and finished 1-1 in the tournament for the third straight season.
Guard Marcus Graves was Sac State’s silver lining, leading all scorers with a career-high 29 points. Justin Strings scored 17, and senior Nick Hornsby tallied seven points and eight rebounds. No other Hornets scored more than five points.
Jacob Wiley went 9 for 9 from the field, leading EWU with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Wiley had the Hornets’ number this season, scoring 38 in the teams’ previous meeting on Feb. 2.
EWU led 40-27 at halftime and built a lead as large as 23. Despite a 13-6 run to open the second period, Sac State could not complete the comeback. A 10-minute stretch without a field goal sealed the Hornets’ fate.
The Eagles advance to Friday’s 8:05 p.m. semifinal against the winner of the Weber State vs. Southern Utah quarterfinal. No. 4 seed Idaho and top seed North Dakota advanced in Thursday’s other Big Sky quarterfinals.