The 16th-seeded Aggies rallied in the second half and held off North Carolina Central down the stretch to earn a trip to Tulsa to play No. 1 seed Kansas on Friday.
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Brynton Lemar scored 15 points and Lawrence White added 14 for UC Davis, which had earned a trip to the tournament by winning the Big West Conference Tournament.
The Aggies (23-12) won despite 18 turnovers that led to 20 points for streaky North Carolina Central. But the Eagles couldn't overcome poor shooting that deteriorated even more in the second half.
The Eagles pulled within 64-63 with 1:49 left in the game on a 3-pointer by Dajuan Graf. North Carolina Central got the ball back with 37 seconds left, but another 3-point try by Graf was off the mark.
Graf had to foul Lawrence White, who made two free throws with 16 second remaining to give the Eagles some breathing room. Lemar hit a foul shot with 4 seconds left to put it away.
"We had guys, mentally they just weren't there," North Carolina Central coach LeVelle Moton said. "And they got in their feelings and their emotions a little bit, and they busted us in the mouth. And I think we gathered ourselves and obviously we made the switch to the 1-3-1 and caused some turnovers and got us back in."
Moton said at start of yr told this team "given keys to Ferrari & job was to drive, not crash." Now says they must put it "back in garage"— Ngozi_ABC11 (@Ngozi_ABC11) March 16, 2017
Graf paced North Carolina Central (25-9) with 15 points. Kyle Benton and Patrick Cole added 13 each.
UC Davis came out and grabbed momentum on two rim-rattling dunks by Moneke and led by as many as nine points in the first half before N.C. Central could get its feet. The Eagles stormed back with a 16-3 run and led 34-31 at halftime, thanks in part to nine UC Davis turnovers.
"I feel like I'm a confident player, and I got it going early," Moneke said. "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."
Graf had 12 points for N.C. Central on 5-for-7 shooting from the field at the half.
After the game, I asked Pat Cole abt NCCU's rough 3pt shooting. He said it's a "make-miss game" & that some of the looks were good #abc11— Ngozi_ABC11 (@Ngozi_ABC11) March 16, 2017
UC Davis had an 11-2 run in the second half, and North Carolina Central was just 1 of 9 from the field during that stretch.
Poor shooting doomed the Eagles, especially when the game got close down the stretch. They were 5 of 26 from 3-point range.
"We missed too many layups," Moton said. "And I told the guys at the beginning of the season: Your season is going to come down to one possession. And you got to capitalize when you get that opportunity."
ABC11's Angelica Alvarez and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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