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Big West Round Up: Gauchos Continue to Impress, 49ers Win Finally, Aggies Back on Track

UCSB continued its roll with a win at home, but UC Davis managed to lock up at least a share of the conference title with its win Saturday.

Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

Gauchos outlast Anteaters to win 3rd straight

As expected, the Thunderdome was loud as can be Saturday night when the UC Irvine Anteaters (17-11, 10-4) took the floor to take on the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (16-12, 9-5). UCSB, fresh off a home win Thursday against first place UC Davis, looked to carry their momentum on over into Saturday's contest against the Anteaters, the second place team in the Big West.

Because it was on national television, the game didn't tip off until 9 p.m. local time, but based on the energy on display, you couldn't tell it was late.

UC Irvine's Will Davis II led all scorers in the first half with 11 points, while also compiling a team-high six rebounds in the half. On the other side, for the Gauchos, reigning conference player of the year Alan Williams, led his team to a 27-26 half time lead with his team high 10 points in the first half.

The Gauchos did a much better job at limiting Will Davis II, in the second half, as he was held to only five points in the final 20 minutes.

The two teams were tit-for-tat, as there were 15 lead changes in the game, eight coming in the second half.

However, Irvine received a much needed lift from their bench, as the Anteater subs combined for 15 second half points, including six points from Mamadou Ndiaye.

For the Gauchos, it was senior Alan Williams, in his second to last home game, who yet again posted another double-double, his 4th straight since returning from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for seven games.

Neither side had a lead larger than three in the second half. That changed when Santa Barbara's Zalmico Harmon, gave the Gauchos the lead for good, nailing a 3-pointer with 1:25 remaining and opening up a four point UCSB lead.

UCSB sent the raucous Thunderdome crowd home happy, with a 54-51 victory over last year's Big West regular season champion.

The win for the Gauchos over the Anteaters, keeps UCSB in sole possession of 3rd place in conference play. For UCI, it all but ended their hopes as repeating as regular season champions, as UC Davis clinched a share of the title with a win over Cal Poly on Saturday night.

Final Score: UC Santa Barbara 54, UC Irvine 51

Remaining Schedules:

UC Santa Barbara: 3/4 at Hawaii, 3/7 vs. Cal Poly

UC Irvine: 3/5 vs. Cal State Fullerton, 3/7 at UC Davis

49ers down rival Titans to snap 5-game drought

Sophomore forward Travis Hammonds tied his career high and led all scorers with 16 points in his first start of the season for the 49ers. Senior David Samuels also chipped in a double-double in only 19 minutes of play, as Long Beach State (14-16, 8-6) snapped their five-game skid with an impressive blow out win over Cal State Fullerton, 70-47.

A good sign for Long Beach State fans, was seeing the 49ers finally break out of their offensive slump and erupting for 70 points against the Titans. The 49ers had been averaging just 57 points during the losing streak.

Another good sign for the 49ers was that senior guard Michael Caffey seemed to find his shooting stroke again. Caffey had a solid all around game, putting up 13 points, four rebounds and four assists.

For the Titans (9-20, 1-13), center Kennedy Esume led the way offensively with nine points. Seeing Esume as Cal State Fullerton's leading scorer should shock anyone who knows the Titans. Usually leading the way for Fullerton is senior guard Alex Harris.

Harris is averaging 15.8 points per game on the year, but was held to just seven Saturday. Credit Caffey's defense for shutting down Harris, something he could not do when the 49ers played the Titans on their home floor.

As if getting blown out on the road wasn't enough to swallow for one night, Cal State Fullerton was eliminated from the competition for the final spot in the Big West Conference tournament The Cal State Northridge Matadors defeated UC Riverside at home to clinch final spot.

For Long Beach State, Saturday's blow out over the rival Titans should provide a boost in confidence. The 49ers have a chance to finish the year in third place, meaning their final game against UC Riverside will mean a lot

Final Score: Long Beach State 70, Cal State Fullerton 47

Remaining Schedules:

Long Beach State: 3/5 vs. Cal State Northridge, 3/7 at UC Riverside

CS Fullerton: 3/5 at UC Irvine, 3/7 vs. Hawaii

Aggies clinch at least a share of the Big West title with win over Mustangs

The conference leading UC Davis Aggies (22-5, 12-2) continued their unreal shooting pace and unpredictable success with a 10-point road victory over a feisty Cal Poly Mustangs (13-14, 6-9) team Saturday night.

UC Davis has made 50 percent of their shot attempts this season (including 55 percent vs Cal Poly) which ranks 5th nationally. Their dominant shooting this year has played a huge part in the Aggies' 22-5 record.

Corey Hawkins, who is in contention to win the Big West Conference Player of the Year award, had a solid showing with 10 points and six rebounds. However, Josh Ritchart racked up a game-high 19 points on 8-for-12 shooting for the Aggies.

As for the defending Big West Tournament champion Cal Poly Mustangs, their home loss to the Aggies marks their third straight defeat and has knocked themselves down to the 7-seed in the conference. If it remains that way, it would be the second straight year that the Mustangs hold the 7th spot in the conference standings.

UC Davis will return home for their final two games of the regular season and will only have to win one of them in order to win the Big West Conference regular season championship and ensure a quarterfinal match up against the Cal State Northridge Matadors (9-22, 4-11).

If the Big West Tournament started today, the Cal Poly Mustangs would bring their conference leading scoring defense to the Honda Center in Anaheim against UC Irvine and their fast-paced offense, which ranks second in the conference with a 47 percent shooting percentage.

Final Score: UC Davis 66, Cal Poly 56

Remaining Schedules:

UC Davis: 3/5 vs. UC Riverside, 3/7 vs. UC Irvine

Cal Poly: 3/7 at UC Santa Barbara

Matadors show life, sweep the week with a home win against the Highlanders

Senior night went as planned for the CS-Northridge Matadors (9-22, 4-11) as they made a special night -- a clinching night. The Matadors secured a postseason appearance, beating the UC Riverside Highlanders (14-14, 7-7).

To make things more memorable for CSUN seniors, it featured a record-setting free throw performance from sophomore Aaron Parks. Parks hit an impressive 19 of 23 shots from the charity stripe, setting a Matador record and finishing with a career-high 29 points. The seniors were heard from too, especially in the second half. Stephan Hicks scored 17 of his 20 points after the break.

It wasn't all Northridge highlights though as UC Riverside junior Taylor Johns reached 1,000 points for his career in the loss.

Johns reached his milestone on a reverse lay-up, tying the ball game at 68 late in the second half. He finished with 21 points and nine rebounds to lead Riverside in both categories.

Officially the 8-seed for the Big West Tournament, CSUN will face co-regular season champion UC Davis. It is a clear drop-off from last year's 5-seed, but the Matadors should be happy to find themselves in the tournament for the second-straight year.

Just to remind everyone, this is a Matador team that reached the Big West Conference final last year, losing to Cal Poly.

Final Score: Cal State Northridge 83, UC Riverside 76

Remaining Schedules:

CS Northridge: 3/5 at Long Beach State

UC Riverside: 3/5 at UC Davis, 3/7 vs. Long Beach State