The UC Davis men’s basketball team relishes the big stage.
The Aggies seem to play well when the national TV cameras come out and the fans pack the Pavilion, even during what has been a challenging season.
Down by as many as 17 points early in the second half, the Aggies put on a ferocious rally, took a one-point lead with 14 seconds only to see heavily favored UC Irvine pull out a 62-61 victory in front of an announced crowd of 4,573 and a national television audience watching on ESPN2.
Junior guard Luke Nelson made two free throws with two seconds for UC Irvine (22-8, 11-3), and Darius Graham missed a desperation heave from midcourt at the buzzer for the Aggies (10-17, 5-9).
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Freshman Siler Schneider’s runner with 14 seconds had given the Aggies a 61-60 lead, their first since early in the first half.
But after Nelson missed a three-pointer with six seconds left, UCD senior forward Josh Fox couldn’t quite secure the loose ball along the sideline, and the Anteaters were given the possession. White was called for a foul on Nelson as the Anteaters inbounded the ball.
The loss extended UCD’s losing streak to five games. UC Irvine has won four of its last five. But in the three previous wins the Anteaters scored 90 or more points.
Last season, UCD rallied to win thrilling overtime games at home on national TV against Long Beach State and Cal Poly before announced crowds of more than 5,000.
But the Aggies couldn’t quite pull it off against an Anteaters team battling Hawaii for the Big West regular-season title.
“I just can’t say enough about them,” UCD coach Jim Les said of his players. “They deserved a better result but sometimes life isn’t fair.”
Fox led UCD with a game-high 20 points on 9 of 14 shooting and added nine rebounds and six assists. Graham and Schneider each scored 14 points and combined for nine assists.
Junior guard Jaron Martin led UC Irvine with 16 points, senior Mike Best had 10 points and Nelson nine points, eight assists and four steals. Junior Mamadou Ndiaye, the Anteaters’ 7-foot-6 junior center, added eight points and had 14 rebounds.