UC Irvine gains Big West final with OT win over UCSB

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Big West Tournament is down to two gritty teams for all the marbles and an automatic berth in the Big Dance. UC Irvine needed overtime to become one of them.

Will Davis II had 18 points and 15 rebounds and Mamadou Ndiaye also scored 18 points, leading the Anteaters to a 72-63 victory over UC Santa Barbara on Saturday night.

"My teammates were giving me the ball in good areas, helping me make the normal plays I make," Davis said. "I knew that if I got the ball I would go to my best move. It was great to have Mamadou behind me, especially when we are playing in the zone. He brought a great attitude to the game and he was very intense."

Luke Nelson added 14 points and seven assists for the Anteaters (20-12), who will face Hawaii in Saturday night's showdown. Irvine lost all four previous times it qualified for the Big West title game (1988, 1994, 2008 and 2013).

"We have a great opportunity in front of us, and our guys will prepare and be ready," coach Russell Turner said. "We are excited to play Hawaii. I thought one of our best games of the year was on the road against them. We are going to have to do a good job at taking care of the ball."

Alan Williams had 24 points and 15 rebounds for UC Santa Barbara (19-12). John Green had 14 points and six rebounds before fouling out in the final minutes of regulation. The loss ended a six-game winning streak by the Gauchos.

Santa Barbara trailed by nine in the opening minute of the second half before they rallied to tie it at 36-all on a 3-pointer by Gabe Vincent, followed Green's tip-in and subsequent jumper with 17:03 left in the second half. They took their first lead, 42-41, when Williams tipped in a missed 3-point attempt by Michael Bryson with 12:50 remaining.

"Williams is a difficult guy to cover -- but we didn't want to leave room for Santa Barbara to hit 3-point shots, either," Turner said. "I believe that with our bigs, we can cause their guys big problems. I give him credit, he had an outstanding game, but we made him work hard to get the points he got."

Neither team led by more than three points over the next 8-plus minutes before Vincent's 3-pointer gave Santa Barbara a 57-53 margin with 4:35 left. Green and Vincent each got their fifth fouls 22 seconds apart, the latter with 1:43 to go and the Gauchos clinging to a 59-57 lead.

"I think we showed great character," Turner said. "That is what we should show, because that is what we have. I knew Mamadou would play well today and compete. Today's performance for him was a reflection of his talent and his character."

Santa Barbara had a chance to pull it out at the end of regulation, but Zalmico Harmon missed a 3-pointer and Williams missed a jumper in the final 16 seconds with the score tied at 59.

"I'm very proud of the group that I've had the opportunity to coach," Bob Williams said of his Gauchos. "These kids did everything they could. We had an opportunity, and by the time we got to overtime, we were walking wounded and they jumped all over us."

Irvine scored the first six points in overtime, with Davis and Ndiaye converting layups and Nelson draining a 3-pointer with 2:38 to play. Nelson provided the final dagger on a 3-pointer from the left corner with 1:05 left, giving Irvine a 69-61 cushion.



UC Irvine: Junior G Alex Young became the fourth player in school history to amass 400 assists when he set up Will Davis II for a jumper that capped a game-opening 11-0 run with 16:08 left in the first half. ... The Anteaters are 5-1 against Santa Barbara in Big West Tournament play. ... The Anteaters were the top seed in the tournament last year, but lost in the semifinals to Cal Poly.

UC Santa Barbara: This was Bob Williams' 800th game as a collegiate head coach, including 17 seasons at Santa Barbara, eight seasons at UC Davis and two at Menlo College. ... The Gauchos split their other two meetings against Irvine this season, losing 77-55 on the road and winning 54-51 at home with 15 points and 15 rebounds from Alan Williams -- last season's Big West Player of the Year.


UC Irvine: Play Hawaii in Big West Tournament championship game on Saturday night.

UC Santa Barbara: Waiting on an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.