Hawaii upsets UC Davis 65-58 in Big West semis
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Being the top seed isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, as UC Davis discovered in the semifinals of the Big West Tournament, because of the target the Aggies had on their backs. Hawaii’s Rainbow Warriors used whatever extra incentive they needed to get past the conference’s regular-season champs and make it to the championship game.
Roderick Bobbitt scored 14 points, and fifth-seeded Hawaii upset the Aggies 65-58 on Friday night. Isaac Fleming had 13 points and Aaron Valdes added 12 for the Warriors (22-12), who never trailed and will meet the winner of the late semifinal between No. 2 seed UC Santa Barbara and No. 3 seed UC Irvine.
“You play who they put in front of you,” coach Benjy Taylor said. “You have to beat somebody good to play in March. We started off making this a season everyone would remember, and so far it has been exactly that.”
Corey Hawkins scored 22 points for UC Davis (26-5), which had won its previous four games.
“They’re a very aggressive team and they’re very in-your-face,” Hawkins said. “They get after it, and that pressure plays to their benefit. They feed off turnovers and make sure you get no easy looks. They try to get at you now only physically, but mentally. So you have to give them their props. But I definitely think we could have played better.”
Trailing 54-44 after a 3-pointer by Negus Webster-Chan with 4:49 remaining, UC Davis got back into the game with back-to-back 3s by Hawkins, 40 seconds apart, and another one by Josh Ritchart. That narrowed the gap to 56-54 with 2:35 to play. Josh Fox tied it 37 seconds later with a pair of free throws, but missed two more with 1:18 left and Hawaii ahead by two.
“We had a lot of respect for them coming in, and we knew it was going to be a challenge,” UC Davis coach Jim Les said. “Down the stretch they just made a few more plays than we did and they deserved to win. We just couldn’t make that next play.”
The Rainbow Warriors closed it out by making 9 of 10 free throws in the final 1:40 after making its last field goal with 4:05 remaining.
“We stayed poised took one step at a time and didn’t think about the offense,” Bobbitt said. “We kept fighting and stuck with it together.”
The Aggies trailed by as many as 13 points nearing the midway mark of the first half before Avery Johnson’s three-point play pulled them into a 32-all tie with 15:38 left. But they went 4 minutes before making their next field goal.
“We were really pumped up for this game,” Valdes said. “We were ready for it.”
Fox, the conference’s sixth man of the year, threw in a putback dunk after a missed layup by Hawkins, getting UC Davis within a point again with 11 minutes remaining.
Hawaii opened the game on an 11-2 run while UC Davis missed seven of its first eight shots. The Rainbow Warriors connected on five rainbows from 3-point range during a 6:05 span to build a 22-9 lead with 10:53 left in the first half. But Hawkins, the Big West Player of the Year, responded with nine points during a 2:02 stretch and the Aggies held Hawaii without a field goal over the final 6:44.
“Being the hunted and the number one seed is a whole different mentality,” Les said. “These guys are extremely disappointed ... but as I told them, they’ve earned the right to play another day by what they’ve done and how they’ve represented this university. And we’re looking forward to that opportunity.
“This is the first time UC Davis has seen postseason as a Division I program, and that’s a pretty good first paragraph when we talk about the legacy. But we’ve still got basketball to play.”
UC Davis: The Aggies, who are the No. 1 seed in the tournament for the first time, split their other two meetings against Hawaii — losing 84-76 on the road and winning 74-67 at home. In that one, Tyler Les set career highs with 28 points and nine 3-point field goals. Les had three points in the rematch and was 1 for 4 behind the arc in 22 minutes. ... Corey Hawkins and his father, Hersey, are the NCAA’s second-all-time leading father and son duo with 4,668 points. Dell Curry and son Stephen top that list with 5,020. ... The Aggies, who entered this tournament fourth in the nation with a 3-point field goal percentage of 49.5, finished 7 for 17 in that department. ... The No. 1 seed has failed to win the Big West Tournament in three of the previous four years.
Hawaii: Roderick Bobbitt, the Big West defensive player of the year, will need one steal in the title game Saturday to become the fourth player in conference history with at least 100 in a season. ... The Rainbow Warriors have won three straight games against conference opponents for the first time this season. ... Hawaii’s all-time record against UC Davis is 6-3. ... Hawaii’s women’s squad beat Cal State Fullerton 73-64 in their semifinal game, so they’ll meet Cal State Northridge for the conference championship on Saturday.
Hawaii: Will face UC Santa Barbara or UC Irvine in the Big West Tournament championship game on Saturday night.
UC Davis: Waiting on an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament or an NIT berth, which Coach Les said was more likely.