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Big West Round Up: Aggies Clinch Title, Gauchos Stay Hot

The seniors shone brightly Thursday for Long Beach State and UC Irvine, while UC Davis laid claim to the throne in the Big West Conference.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Beach Bests Shorthanded Matadors

Thursday night was business as usual for the Long Beach State 49ers (15-16, 9-6), who never trailed Cal State Northridge (9-23, 4-12), defeating the Matadors 69-58.

On Senior Night in the Walter Pyramid, David Samuels led the way for the 49ers with 19 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. Samuels was extremely active on both sides of the ball, providing a plethora of crucial blocks in the second half. Senior Michael Caffey also chipped in 10 points and a season-high eight assists.

Long Beach Sate seems to have found its groove in its last two games. After dropping five straight conference games, the 49ers have now strung together back-to-back victories. The wins have come against the bottom two teams in the conference, but the 49ers appear to have some confidence back on their side.

The duo of Branford Jones and Travis Hammonds thrived for Long Beach State off of the bench. Jones had a stuffed stat line of seven points, five rebounds and five assists in 26 minutes, while Hammonds added nine points and six ebounds in 27 minutes, including some clutch buckets down the stretch to seal the victory for the 49ers.

With the win, Long Beach State clinched the 4-seed in next week's Big West Tournament and will will play either UC Riverside or Hawaii in the quarterfinals.

Stephen Maxwell paced the Matadors posting his 42nd career double-double with 16 points and 11 boards, and Nevada-transfer Devonte Elliot added 14 points. CSUN's leading scorer Stephan Hicks sat with a minor knee injury.

Thursday night's loss marked an end to a tough regular season for Reggie Theus and Cal State Northridge, but the season is not over yet. CSUN will play UC Davis on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.

As Cal Poly proved to the Big West last year, anything can happen at the Honda Center. Keep your faith alive, Matador fans.

Final Score: Long Beach State 69, Cal State Northridge 58

Aggies Squeak Past Highlanders, Clinch Regular Season Title

For the first time in school history, the UC Davis Aggies (23-5, 13-2) won the Big West Conference outright, sneaking by the UC Riverside Highlanders (14-15, 7-8) on Thursday night, 61-59.

The Aggies erased a seven-point deficit with three minutes remaining. It was senior Corey Hawkins who made the go-ahead jumper to put UC Davis ahead for good with under a minute left.

With the win the Aggies moved to 13-0 at home on the season and will host 2nd place UC Irvine on Saturday to wrap up the regular season.

Despite a 13-2 record in conference play to go along with the regular season crown, the Aggies probably won't be favored come conference tournament time at the Honda Center in less than a week.

After a loss on the road last week to UC Santa Barbara along with sneaking by a mediocre UC Riverside team at home, I can't help but think that the Aggies have peaked here in 2015. If that is the case, they might have trouble getting past Cal State Northridge in round one.

No disrespect to what Jim Les and the boys up North have done this season but I'd be more surprised to see UC Davis win the conference tournament as opposed to seeing the Aggies get knocked out early on in Anaheim.

Final Score: UC Davis 61, UC Riverside 59

Vincent Leads Gauchos To 4th Straight In Hawaii

Give credit to a great offensive performance by the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (17-12, 10-5), or maybe a poor defense by the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (19-12, 7-8) for the win Thursday. This time it was a double-digit win lead by the Gauchos' stars; that did in Hawaii.

Alan Williams clocked in the usual double-double: 13 points and 10 rebounds, along side Michael Bryson's 22 points and Gabe Vincent's season-high 25.

Hawaii just ran out of time despite cutting the game to eight points with one minute remaining.

The Gauchos still have a chance to be the 2-seed going into Anaheim. With a win and a UC Irvine loss Saturday, the Gauchos would face the Cal Poly Mustangs in the opening round of the Big West Tournament.

Final Score: UC Santa Barbara 98, Hawaii 90

Fullerton's Late Rally Not Enough Against Irvine

The UC Irvine Anteaters (18-11, 11-4), who many regard to be the most "tournament ready" team in the Big West Conference, took care of business with their sluggish, but commendable win over the last place Cal State Fullerton Titans (9-21, 1-14). The win propels UCI to an 11-4 conference record and a top-three finish in the Big West for the second-straight season.

What makes UCI so impressive is that they play every opponent as if their season is at stake; it was no different Thursday night.

In a game littered with miscues, turnovers, and other mistakes offensively, the game was tied at 22 with under one minute left before the halftime break.

UCI head coach Russell Turner called a timeout and must have made the speech of a lifetime, as the Anteaters shut down any hopes of a Cal State Fullerton win by sinking a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the half. The Anteaters then extended that lead to double digits early on in the second half.

Cal State Fullerton finished the game with more rebounds, 2nd chance points, points in the paint, and bench production. Their poor shooting (38 percent from the field) didn't help them and the defense fell apart late in the game.

Despite another loss, Cal State Fullerton can take pride in the fact that they were tied right before halftime against one of the more dominant teams in the Big West. Cal State Fullerton fell to 1-14 in conference play and will finish last in the Big West this season.

Mamadou Ndiaye completed another stalwart performance with 12 points, eight rebounds, and a ridiculous six blocks against the Titans. Fullerton's Lanerryl Johnson led both teams with 21 points coming off the bench including 4-for-5 from beyond the arc to help keep the Titans in the game late.

Final Score: UC Irvine 68, Cal State Fullerton 62