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Big West Roundup, Vol. 8: TJ Shorts II leads UC Davis, UC Irvine surges

Saturday’s game in Long Beach stole the show, but the Big West had yet another shakeup

California-Davidson v Washington State Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

The latest installment of the Big West Roundup has to start in the Walter Pyramid. There’s really no other way.

Saturday night’s double-overtime, offensive showcase between Long Beach State and UC Davis — two teams within half a game of each other with a shot at the conference’s pole position on the line — was a classic. Full stop. The Aggies’ 105-104 double-overtime victory featured:

  • The season’s eighth-highest Excitement Score and sixth-highest Tension Score on KenPom
  • Gabe Levin tying a 47-year-old Long Beach State record for single-game scoring (45)...
  • ...and also setting a conference record with 24 made free throws
  • Both teams shooting over 44 percent from the field (and 35 percent from three)
  • Eight players in double-figures
  • All 18 players who played more than five minutes logged two meaningful stats
  • A go-ahead three from TJ Shorts, which you have to see to believe:
  • And a dancing Jim Les, which you also have to see to believe:

Performances of Last Week

Leland King II: 25 points (10-18 FGs), 17 reb, 1-3 3FGs vs. Cal State Northridge
Evan Leonard: 30 points (9-12 FGs), 2 reb, 2 ast, 10-11 FTs vs. Long Beach State
Gabe Levin: 45 points (10-20 FGs), 9 reb, 4 blk, 24-28FTs vs. UC Davis
TJ Shorts II: 31 points (12-17 FGs), 4 reb, 7 ast, 4 stl, 1-2 3FGs vs. Long Beach State
Mike Thomas: 27 points (8-13 FGs), 10 reb, 4 ast 10-12 FTs vs. UC Santa Barbara

You’re right, at UC Davis MBB. It’s not a contest.

And here are the rankings:

9. UC Riverside Highlanders (5-17, 0-8)

Recent results: @ Cal Poly (71-68 L), vs. UC Santa Barbara (76-69 L)
Last ranked: 9th

Alex Larsson, the school-record holder in career starts, is still on crutches. Promising sophomore guard Dikymbe Martin is out of the lineup for the foreseeable future. UC Riverside fans are incredibly livid online. The Highlanders are on a 10-game losing streak with the Hawaii trip and hosting a hot UC Irvine team this week.

8. Cal State Northridge Matadors (5-17, 2-6)

Recent results: vs. UC Davis (63-56 L), @ UC Santa Barbara (758-51 L)
Last ranked: 7th

7. Cal Poly Mustangs (8-15, 3-6)

Recent results: vs. UC Riverside (71-68 W), vs. Hawaii (78-64 W)
Last ranked: 8th

Barring a complete collapse down the stretch, both the Matadors and the Mustangs will be in the Big West Tournament. At this point, there isn’t too much to play for aside from that — unless you’re Terrell Gomez, whose 13:2 assist-to-turnover ratio from last week put him in the forefront for Freshman of the Year.

6. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (13-7, 4-3)

Recent results: @ UC Santa Barbara (84-82 OT L); @ Cal Poly (78-64 L)
Last ranked: 3rd

5. Cal State Fullerton Titans (12-8, 5-3)

Recent result: vs. UC Irvine (63-58 L)
Last ranked: 4th

If they haven’t done so already, Hawaii and Cal State Fullerton fans should probably panic, root against the top four teams of the conference at all costs and pray that their teams revert to their old selves. Cal State Fullerton has dropped four of its last five, and was three points from Hawaii away from dropping five in a row.

While Hawaii’s next week against UC Riverside and Cal State Northridge is a brief respite, the Rainbow Warriors need to steal road games against either UC Irvine, UC Davis or the aforementioned Titans to claw back in the race. That’s quite the obstacle for a team that still hasn’t proved it can win on the road.

Thankfully for both of these teams, a regular-season title is still in the cards.

4. Long Beach State 49ers (12-14, 6-4)

Recent results: vs. UC Irvine (75-68 L); vs. UC Davis (105-104 2OT L)
Last ranked: 2nd

3. UC Davis Aggies (16-7, 7-2)

Recent results: @ Cal State Northridge (63-56 W), @ Long Beach State (105-104 2OT W)
Last ranked: 5th

Saturday night’s classic between these teams overshadowed crucial Big West news. UC Davis forward — and potential all-conference player of the year nominee — China Moneke was “suspended indefinitely for violating rules that govern conduct at the team’s hotel:”

It’s no hyperbole that this could have season-altering consequences depending on the severity of the suspension. With still no word from the university and a big game against UC Santa Barbara looming, the Aggies aren't out of the woods yet.

The good news is: The Big West’s regular-season title runs through Davis. If last Saturday’s game is any indication, the Aggies aren’t just Chima and Friends. Shorts will likely be Newcomer of the Year, Siler Schneider is showing he’s a multi-level scorer, and they play four of the conference's five legit contenders at home.

2. UC Irvine Anteaters (11-14, 6-3)

Recent results: @ Long Beach State (75-68 W), @ Cal State Fullerton (63-58 W)
Last ranked: 6th

Here’s an incredible nugget from ESPN’s Sam Farber, who summed up the Anteaters’ big week better than I could:

The young Anteaters are coming into their own. Sophomore guard Evan Leonard has taken the reins in the backcourt, leading UC Irvine with his 30-point outing in the Walter Pyramid. This team is poised to make a late push for the conference title — and maybe more.

1. UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (18-5, 7-2)

Recent results: vs. Hawaii (84-82 OT W), vs. Cal State Northridge (75-51 W)
Last ranked: 1st

Last week was business as usual for Joe Pasternack’s squad. The Gauchos are on a six-game winning streak, a perfect 11-0 in the Thunderdome and recipients of ten points in our latest poll. Oh, and they’ve tripled their win total from last season.

Although UC Santa Barbara has one game this week, their Thursday-night tilt against UC Davis has massive tiebreaker and seeding implications.


Weekday Game Predictions:
(all times Pacific)

UC Irvine over Cal State Northridge Wednesday, 7 p.m. (ESPN3)
Hawaii over UC Riverside — Wednesday, 9 p.m.
Cal State Fullerton over Cal Poly Thursday, 7 p.m. (ESPN3)
UC Santa Barbara over UC Davis — Thursday, 7 p.m.