Friday, March 10, 2017

Moneke's Heroics Send UC Davis to First Championship Game

Courtesy of Zyaire Porter T.G.Sportstv1
Anaheim, Calif. – A put-back at the buzzer by Chima Moneke sends the UC Davis Aggies to the championship game with 66-64 victory over the Cal State Fullerton Titans in overtime.

Brynton Lemar carried the Aggies on his back during the overtime period when he scored all nine of the Aggies’ points prior to Moneke’s late-game heroics. Lemar scored a game-high 23 points.

“As a senior, I think it’s my responsibility to step up and make plays,” said Lemar. “I saw the defense sag off a little bit and they weren’t really hedging on screens. They were playing all guards. I was just trying to be aggressive and make good plays.”

Moneke finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds. His physicality overwhelmed the Titans for most of the game as he continued get in the paint for his points and grabbed seven offensive rebounds, none was more important than his final one.

“I saw that [Fullerton player] just watching the shot, so I just snuck in and knew I was going to get the offensive rebound,” said Moneke. “I just tried to stay cool. I knew there was enough time for me to get it up.”

The nightcap began as a sloppily-played basketball game, although UC Davis closed out the first half strong by making eight of its last 12 shots after opening the game by making only two of its first 15 field goal attempts. Fullerton scored the first seven points of the game but went cold, scoring only 11 the rest of the half. Fullerton shot 7-31 in the first half and going scoreless in the last three minutes of the first half.

The second half was played with much more intensity than the first. Both teams were more efficient in shooting the ball, especially the Titans’ Tre’ Coogins, who took it upon himself to shoulder the load to make a ball game out of it.

UC Davis was in charge for most of the second half. It was Moneke and Lemar tag teaming with an inside to outside game for the Aggies. Moneke shot 16 free throws; putting the Cal State Fullerton bigs in foul trouble in the process, which forced them to go small for the majority of the second half.

“We got to a point where we had to play five guards, the way the whistle was going,” said Cal State Fullerton coach Dedrique Taylor. “The physically beat us up and I thought they were allowed to do that tonight throughout the course of the game from the onset.”

Small ball seemed to have worked in Fullerton’s when Coogins shot from deep to give Titans a 53-51 lead that they couldn’t keep because found his way to the foul line for a pair of free throws to tie the game at 53. A pair of free throws by Coogins gave the Titans another lead but Lemar drove to a short post for a jumper with 20 seconds left that put the game into overtime.

The win sends UC Davis to its first trip to the Big West championship game since they entered the league in the 2007-08 season. They will face UC Irvine who defeated Long Beach State in the first semifinal game.