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UCI's NCAA dream shattered

Top-seeded Anteaters upset by No. 7-seeded Cal Poly in Big West tourney semis.

March 14, 2014|By Barry Faulkner
  • From left, UC Irvine's John Ryan, Will Davis and Luke Nelson leave the court after losing, 61-58, to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in the Big West Conference Tournament semifinal Friday.
From left, UC Irvine's John Ryan, Will Davis and… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

ANAHEIM — This was not the kind of history UC Irvine had in mind. But for the first time in 39 Big West Conference men's basketball tournaments, the Anteaters became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 7 seed.

The 61-58 setback to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo ended the Anteaters' hopes of making their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament. UCI (23-11), will instead compete in the National Invitational Tournament for the first time since 2002.

Information on UCI's NIT pairing will be available Sunday or Monday, a UCI athletic department spokesperson said.

Cal Poly, which lost nine of its final 11 regular-season games and had been  beaten twice by UCI in their previous two meetings, shot 47.6% in the second half and committed just six turnovers to pull off an upset for the second straight night.

The Mustangs (12-19) hammered No. 2-seeded UC Santa Barbara, 69-38, in Thursday's quarterfinals.

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After Cal Poly broke a 29-29 tie with 1:20 left in the first half, the Mustangs did not trail again. Coach Joe Callero's squad led by as many  as 10 early in the second half, but UCI closed to within 56-55 on a Will Davis layup with 2:13 left to set the stage for a dramatic finish.

Cal Poly senior Guard Kyle Odister nailed a 24-foot three-pointer with 1:36 remaining to extend the lead and, after UCI freshman guard Luke Nelson had an entry pass intercepted for a turnover, Mustangs' sophomore David Nwaba netted both ends of a one-and-one free-throw situation to up the lead to 61-55 with 1:07 left.

UCI sophomore Alex Young drained a three-pointer with 48 seconds left to make it a one-possession game and sophomore Dominique Dunning forced a jump ball that gave UCI the ball on alternating possession with 37 seconds remaining.

But Young then missed an awkward driving layup attempt and fouled Cal Poly senior forward Chris Eversley immediately after Eversley collected the rebound.

Eversley, who along with Nwaba led the winners with 14 points, missed the front end of the one-and-one situation and UCI had possession with a chance to pull even with a three-pointer.

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