UC Davis earned a win in its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance with a 67-63 victory over North Carolina Central Wednesday night in Dayton.
Although the Aggies didn't make a field goal for nearly the final six minutes, they did enough to come away with the win.
The team's Twitter account captured the winning moments:
On to Tulsa!! #LesDance #GoAgs https://t.co/bcUG0vNl9T2017-3-16 00:52:31
The Big West champions will now try to keep it going with a matchup against No. 1 Kansas in the Midwest Region.
Jon Rothstein of CBSSports.com credited head coach Jim Les after the win:
Jon Rothstein @JonRothstein
Les is More.2017-3-16 00:44:35
North Carolina Central stayed within a couple of possessions almost the entire second half but never held a lead in the final 18 minutes. A Dajuan Graf three-pointer cut the lead to one with less than two minutes left, but it couldn't make another shot as the Aggies made their free throws to secure the win.
Shooting was a problem nearly the entire game for the Eagles, who went just 5-of-26 from beyond the arc. Seth Davis of CBSSports.com took note of the problems:
Seth Davis @SethDavisHoops
This game reminds me of what Dean Smith used to say: "I don't need outside shooters, I need outside makers."2017-3-16 00:21:16
UC Davis had its own problems, including 18 turnovers, but Chima Moneke helped the squad come away with the win. The big man finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds and two steals.
Brynton Lemar and Lawrence White also helped out with a combined 29 points.
UC Davis took the early advantage in the game, flexing its defensive muscle with some highlight-reel plays on that end in the first half:
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
Gimme that!!! 🖐🏾 https://t.co/CiwuVrW79h2017-3-15 23:05:48
NCAA March Madness @marchmadness
The theft and the throw down! #FirstFour #MarchMadness https://t.co/ixIDi8Lxvb2017-3-15 23:16:54
Making 13 of 23 shots in that stretch seemed like it would be enough to go into halftime with a lead, but nine turnovers helped North Carolina Central go up 34-31 at intermission.
The Aggies answered with the first nine points scored in the second half and appeared ready to pull away as the half continued behind the trio of Moneke, Lemar and White. Unfortunately, their own shooting woes helped create a competitive game down the stretch.
While Graf helped NC Central with 15 points, leading scorer Patrick Cole only ended up 5-of-15 from the field for 13 points, missing a few key shots in the closing minutes.
It wasn't always pretty, but UC Davis held on for the win. Joe Davidson of the Sacramento Bee discussed the effort:
Joe Davidson @SacBee_JoeD
UC Davis beats NC Central 67-63 for 1st NCAA Tournament victory. Well earned, gritty & true. Now the monster challenge: Kansas in Tulsa2017-3-16 00:48:15
The Aggies now have two days to prepare itself for Kansas and All-American candidate Frank Mason. The game will take place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Friday at 6:50 p.m. ET.
Considering No. 16 seed has ever beaten a No. 1 seed, they will have their work cut out for them.
Moneke wasn't afraid to take control and it resulted in him being the star of the game.
"I feel like I'm a confident player, and I got it going early," Moneke said, per Mitch Stacy of the Associated Press. "And I like the matchup that I had. And you know, my teammates were doing a great job of moving the ball, and I felt that if we continued to do that, I would put us in a successful position to score most of the time."
On the other end of the court, North Carolina Central looked good at times offensively but struggled to simply make shots.
"We had some good looks at the rim," Graf said after the game, per Jonas Pope IV of the News and Observer. "We just couldn’t knock them down. We were down one, I shot a 3. Coach was telling me to drive the ball. I should have listened to coach and continued driving the ball and finish at the rim."
The moral of the story is to always listen to your coach.