Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Top seeds UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine advance to Big West championship

No. 1 seed UC Santa Barbara and No. 2 seed UC Irvine advanced to the championship game of the Air Force Reserve Big West Conference Championship Tournament, presented by the Hawaiian Islands, on Friday.

UCSB beat No. 4 seed UC Davis, 71-55, in the first semifinal game at the Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas. UCI topped No. 3 seed UC Riverside, 78-61, in the second semifinal.

The Big West Championship game is set for 8:30 p.m. (Pacific Time) at the Michelob ULTRA Arena, and it will be televised nationally on ESPN2.

Here are the recaps of the semifinals:

UC Santa Barbara 71, UC Davis 55

Amadou Sow scored 23 points, JaQuori McLaughlin added 17 and Ajare Sanni  had 16 as UC Santa Barbara led from start-to-finish in a 71-55 win over UC Davis in a semifinal game at the Big West Tournament on Friday night. 

Photo courtesy Big West Conference

The Gauchos (21-4) have won four games in a row and 17 of their last 18. The Aggies (10-8) were led by Christian Anigwe with 15 points and Elijah Pepper with 13. 

UCSB took a 6-0 lead to open the game and it never trailed, leading by as many as 20 early in the second half. 

“This was a great test for our guys,” said UCSB head coach Joe Pasternack. “Davis is a good team, but we have played with a great deal of purpose and that showed tonight.” 

Sow, a First Team All-Big West choice, made 7-of-12 field goals, but he also made 9-of-10 free throws for his season-high 23 points. He helped lead Santa Barbara to the league tournament championship game for the first time since 2012. It marked the third consecutive game in which Sow scored 20 or more, a first this season.

UCSB held a 33-21 lead at halftime and never relented. After falling behind 39-21, Davis never rallied back any closer than 56-46 on a layup by Anigwe with 6:24 left in the game. But a three-pointer by Sanni just 21 seconds later squelched that rally and put the Gauchos in prime position for the win. 

After the three-point bucket by Sanni, the Aggies could never get closer than 15 the rest of the way.

The Gauchos were outstanding defensively, limiting the Aggies to 41.5% from the field overall and just 26.3% from beyond the three-point arc.

As it has done much of the season, UCSB had a major turnover advantage, forcing UCD into 14 while committing just seven of its own.

For the Gauchos, McLaughlin, the Big West Player of the Year, was 6-for-11 from the floor and 5-for-7 from the free throw line for his 17 points. He also added four assists and just one turnover in the win.

Sanni hit 8-of-9 free throws and made 2-of-3 shots from three-point range for his 16 points.

UC Irvine 78, UC Riverside 61

Dawson Baker and Collin Welp each scored 17 points, DJ Davis scored 14 and UC Irvine fended off UC Riverside 78-61 in the semifinals of the Big West Conference Tournament on Friday night.

Photo courtesy Big West Conference

The second-seeded Anteaters (18-8) will take on top-seeded UC Santa Barbara in Saturday’s championship game.

Welp was just 3-of-14 from the field but added 11 of 13 from the free-throw line. UC Irvine was 26 of 30 at the line — 16 of 19 after halftime. Nearly half of Irvine’s second-half points came from the line.

A Davis jumper put the Anteaters up 62-46 with 8:41 remaining — matching their largest lead of the game at 16 points.

Riverside (14-8), holding its highest-ever seed into the tourney at three, rallied with an 12-5 run over the next five minutes and cut the lead down to nine. But Baker and Isaiah Lee scored back-to-back, pushing Irvine’s advantage back to 14 and the Anteaters closed it out with free throws.

Arinze Chidom scored 16 points with four 3-pointers for Riverside and Jock Perry  also scored 16.

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