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2015 Big West Tournament Final Recap: UC Irvine Beats Hawaii, Punches Ticket to NCAA Tournament

The Anteaters will represent the Big West Conference in this year's NCAA Tournament after an impressive showing in Anaheim during the conference tournament.

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in school history, Anteater fans stormed the floor as Big West Champions.

The UC Irvine Anteaters (21-12, 11-5) took down the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (22-13, 8-8), 67-58 in the Big West Conference Tournament final.

After falling as the top seed in last year's tournament, 2015 was a revenge tour as the the Eaters got by some of the best of the Big West in UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, and Hawaii to clinch the NCAA Tournament berth.

Sophomore Luke Nelson led UC Irvine with 17 points including the big 3-point shot with a minute remaining to put the Rainbow Warriors away for good.

After Hawaii got off to a scorching start, including six first half triples, the UCI zone defense dictated the tempo down the stretch. Aaron Valdes led the Bows to a 33-29 halftime lead by scoring 14 first-half points, but was limited to just three in the second half as that Irvine zone started to work its magic.

Now it's off to bigger and better things for UC Irvine in the NCAA Tournament. According to numerous bracketology experts, UCI could be anywhere between a 13- to 15-seed in the NCAA Tournament and a dangerous one at that.

Don't expect any coach to crack a smile when they see UCI as their first round matchup. The Anteaters feature college basketball's tallest player in 7-6 Mamadou Ndiaye, who will surely wreak havoc on any opposing player who dares to attempt to score in the paint while he's on the floor.

Final Score: UC Irvine 67, Hawaii 58