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2015 Big West Tournament Semifinal Recap: Hawaii Advances, Gauchos Crumble

Hawaii stayed strong yet again, beating UC Davis quite convincingly to advance the the Championship of the Big West Tournament for the first time. UC Santa Barbara fans were left heart-broken after a tough loss to UC Irvine.

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Down goes Davis, Hawaii advances to the final

Friday night's matchup between the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (22-12, 8-8) and the UC Davis Aggies (25-6, 14-2) proved to be a great game.

It was offense vs. offense in the Honda Center as the two leading scoring teams in the Big West squared off in the semifinals of the Big West Conference Tournament.

Hawaii jumped on the Aggies early, making five 3-point baskets in the first nine minutes of the game and taking a commanding 19-9 lead.

The Rainbow Warriors led by double digits for majority of the first half. That was, until Big West Player of the Year Corey Hawkins led his team back into contention, with six straight points late in the half.

Hawaii led the Aggies 24-12 with 6:45 to play in the first half, but UC Davis would go on to end the first-half on an 11-2 run, with Hawkins scoring six.

Starting the second half, defense was the motto for the Rainbow Warriors. Hawaii established their presence early, full-court pressing the Aggies, resulting in six second half turnovers.

UC Davis could not keep up pace with the Rainbow Warriors. Hawkins tried his best to carry the Aggies singlehanded, but his 16 second half points were ultimately not enough.

Hawaii, for the first time in program history, is advancing to the Big West Tournament final. The Rainbow Warriors will play UC Irvine on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. Pacific.

Final Score: Hawaii 65, UC Davis 58

Ndiaye, Davis lead UCI over Williams and UCSB

It took overtime but UC Irvine is just one win away from an NCAA Tournament berth, one that would be their first at the Division 1 level.

One of the most competitive and entertaining rivalries in recent history, the UC Irvine Anteaters (20-12, 11-5) and the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (19-3, 11-5), came down to a must-see finish.

The Anteaters stormed out of the gates to an 11-0 lead with just four minutes elapsed in the game. UC Irvine was able to hold that lead into the break and even came out of halftime with another scoring spurt. With 19:25 left in the 2nd half, UC Irvine was up 36-29.

By that point, Will Davis had 14 points and seven rebounds. Then, before the secondnd half got out of hand, Alan Williams willed his team into the lead for the first time all night with one shot down low after another. Williams, who is unquestionably one of the most productive Big West basketball players in conference history, finished this semifinal thriller with 24 points and 15 rebounds.

After six ties and four lead changes, Mamadou Ndiaye emerged down low for the Anteaters and scored the team's final six points to tie the game at 59 with only 10.8 seconds remaining.

UC Santa Barbara had one final shot to win in regulation but Williams, who was the best Gauchos player (and maybe best overall player) on the floor, missed an open jump shot from the key as time expired which sent the game to overtime.

What made matters worse for Williams was that he aggravated his shoulder on his next shot attempt and had to sit out through a critical 76 seconds of the extra stanza. During that time UC Santa Barbara missed two open shots and the Anteaters capitalized with seven points including a 3-pointer by Luke Nelson that ended the Gauchos season.

UC Irvine has never appeared in the Division 1 Men's Basketball Tournament, but they are one game away. The last team standing in their way is Hawaii.

Final Score: UC Irvine 72, UC Santa Barbara 63 (OT)