Hawaii upsets UC Davis in Big West semifinals

Hawaii upsets UC Davis in Big West semifinals
Hawaii's Aaron Valdes dribbles from UC Davis' Josh Fox, left, and Josh Ritchart during the second half of the Big West Conference tournament semifinals on Friday. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

There are perks that come with winning the Big West regular-season championship. You get a shiny trophy and, more often than not, a spot in the NIT.

UC Davis was the latest to find out what one-and-done really means in a conference that the selection committee seems to have permanently earmarked for one spot in the NCAA tournament.

The only hope Davis had of reaching the tournament for the first time was smothered by Hawaii, 65-58, in the Big West semifinals Friday at the Honda Center.

"It came down to them making more plays than we did," Davis Coach Jim Les said.


The biggest came after a frantic rally by the Aggies, that left them down two, 58-56, with a minute left. Corey Hawkins, the conference player of the year, drove and lofted a floater, only to have it blocked by Aaron Valdes.

The Rainbow Warriors (22-12) made seven of free throws in the last 30 seconds to leave them one victory away from their first NCAA tournament since 2002. Hawaii will play in the championship game Saturday night.

"Anyone who has seen Corey play knows that when he goes down the lane and puts up a floater, that's a money shot," Les said. "I would live or die on that more times than not."

The Aggies departed on it.

"This team earned the right to play another day," Les said.

They will. In the NIT.

"We shocked the world," Hawaii guard Roderick Bobbitt said.

Actually, they didn't.

This was the ninth time in 15 seasons that the Big West's regular-season champion has not won the conference tournament, which carries the automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. And the selection committee has made it clear over the years that one is enough.

The Big West has had more than one team conference reach the NCAA tournament only once in the last 21 seasons.

The Aggies (25-6) have Hawaii to thank.

"I think [Bobbitt] said it best in the locker room, 'Why not us?'' Hawaii Coach Benjy Taylor said.

The Rainbow Warriors took that attitude onto the court, making four of five three-pointers in the first eight minutes to take a 19-9 lead. Bobbitt scored 14 points, Isaac Fleming 13 and Aaron Valdes 12, as Hawaii never trailed.

But it was the defense that mattered.

Hawkins finished with 22 points, but labored to get each one. He was held scoreless the first 15 minutes. Davis turned the ball over 16 turnovers, which led to 18 points.

"They are very aggressive and they feed off turnovers," Hawkins said. "They get in your face, not just mentally, but physically."

In Big West women's basketball semifinals:

Cal State Northridge 61, UC Davis 47: The Matadors wore down the Aggies behind Ashlee Guay, who had 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Northridge (22-9) stretched a 33-31 lead to 49-37 with six minutes left. Davis made 19 turnovers, which led to 17 points by the Matadors. Cinnamon Lister scored 13 points and Janae Sharpe 10 for Northridge. Alyson Doherty had 14 points for Davis (15-16). Northridge will play Hawaii for the conference's automatic NCAA berth Saturday at 3 p.m.

Hawaii 73, Cal State Fullerton 64: The regular-season champion Rainbow Wahine finally distanced themselves from the Titans in the second half. Fullerton led 43-40 with 14 minutes left when Hawaii went on an 11-0 run. The Titans closed to within three with six minutes left. Destiny King then scored six of her 13 points during an 8-0 blitz for a 64-53 lead. Shawna-Lei scored 18 points off the bench to lead Hawaii (23-7). Chante Miles had 16 points to lead Fullerton (13-19).