The Aggies would’ve liked to close out their season with two wins. Instead, they got one victory, giving them the edge for the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye in the Big West Conference Tournament.
UC Davis fell to Cal State Northridge on Thursday but claimed the victory they needed most against Cal State Fullerton on Saturday.
The win gives the Aggies an 8-8 record in conference play (13-17 overall) and sends them through to the league tournament quarterfinals.
Thursday – Cal State Northridge 70, UC Davis 66
In basketball, everybody makes a run.
The Aggies’ came up just short.
Down by one with 17 seconds left, the Aggies fouled Matador Willie Gallick in hopes of getting the ball back with enough time left to tie up the game. Gallick spoiled the Aggies’ plan by missing his second free throw and coming up with the offensive rebound.
UC Davis was forced to foul again and two more free throws sealed the Matador victory.
While the Aggies shot 21-of-23 from the free-throw line, they shot just 36 percent from the field and 23 percent from beyond the arc.
Saturday – UC Davis 92, Cal State Fullerton 86
After finishing on the wrong end of a close game on Thursday, the Aggies tried some role reversal on Saturday.
The Aggies won their first overtime game since an extra-period victory against the same Matadors in January 2007.
“It was one of the most significant wins in our Division I tenure,” said coach Gary Stewart. “We had to deal with adversity and our guys stayed the course.”
After going into halftime with a 38-28 lead, the Aggies spent the second half fending off the Titans.
“[Cal State Fullerton] just continued to stay aggressive and attack,” Stewart said. “As the game wore on, we wore down defensively. We couldn’t keep them in front of us.”
The Titans went on runs of 8-0 and 12-5 in the second half, finally tying the game at 64 with five minutes left. After trading baskets and free throws for the next several possessions, UC Davis held a 75-72 lead with less than 30 seconds remaining.
Looking to send the game into overtime, the Titans turned to Jacques Streeter. He stepped up in the clutch, burying a three-pointer to tie the game at 75, sending the contest into overtime.
Coach Stewart gathered his team before the extra session to talk about the importance of winning and attaining the bye.
“We talked about hanging on to the rope,” Stewart said. “We’ve been in must-win situations for weeks, but this game had huge ramifications. Nobody’s ever won the [Big West] tournament after having to play on the first day.”
The Aggies were able to outlast the Titans by outscoring them 17-11 in the extra period. Julian Welch led the way, scoring nine of his 18 points after regulation.
“He was a little bit fresher than everyone else,” Stewart said. “When he put the ball on the floor he was able to get where he wanted and finish.”
Dominic Calegari tied a career-high with 28 points and 10 rebounds.
UC Davis returns to action next Thursday on the second day of the Big West Tournament. They will play the highest seed remaining after day one.
RICHARD PROCTER can be reached at email@example.com.