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Three-Point Shooting, Clutch Plays Lead To 77-76 Victory Over Long Beach State

C.K. Hicks / UC Davis Athletics

DAVIS, Calif. — Stefan Gonzalez, the No. 1 three-point shooter in the nation, hit 5 of 8 shots from three, but it was his last basket from behind the arc that gave the Aggies a one-point lead with 30 seconds remaining in Saturday’s Big West Conference game at the Pavilion. After Long Beach State’s Chance Hunter tied the score at 76, with six seconds left in regulation by connecting on the front-half of a one-and-one opportunity at the line, heads-up plays from that point of the game, until the final buzzer, ultimately led to a 77-76 victory for UC Davis.

Gonzalez snatched the rebound off Hunter’s missed second free throw, and immediately raced to the other side of the court in an attempt to catch the Beach off-guard, and create the most dangerous scoring opportunity possible for the Aggies as time wound down. Once Gonzalez crossed midcourt and saw Kennedy Koehler all alone in the near corner, he immediate passed the ball his way and saw his teammate hit the floor after Colin Slater bit on his pump-fake from three and ran into the junior forward.

“I thought Stefan was going to make a play, but once he kicked it out to me I pulled up, and could not take the shot because (Slater) fouled me,” explained Koehler.

Successful on his first free throw attempt with just over a second still on the clock, he intentionally missed the second free throw to waste as much time as possible. When Jordan Griffin scooped up the loose ball and called timeout, Long Beach State had only 0.8 seconds remaining to throw the ball from one end of the court to the other and create a game-winning opportunity.

UC Davis’ defense never gave the Beach that chance.

Added Koehler, “Since the start of the season, I worked on free throws more than any other part of my game. I was more nervous missing the second one, compared to making the first free throw, because how often do you miss a shot on purpose?”

With Saturday’s victory, the Aggies posted a perfect home record for the month of February, won its fifth game in the last six played, swept the season series against LBSU for the second time in the last three years and improved its record to 14-16 overall and 8-6 in league play.

The Beach will return home with respective records of 10-20 and 5-9.

The Ags have now won the last three consecutive overall head-to-head games against Long Beach State and the last four in a row on Bob Hamilton Court.

“At this point of the year, we will take a win any way we can get. Stefan hit an unbelievable shot, and Kennedy stepped up to make that free throw,” said UC Davis head coach Jim Les.

“By missing that second free throw, they have 0.8 to make a shot, and they have to do that with a stationary inbound pass since they were unable to run up and down the baseline. Usually, I am not a fan of missing on purpose, but this situation worked out,” Les added.

Caleb Fuller shot 6 of 12 overall and hit two shots from three to finish with a team-high 16 points; Gonzalez also posted that same total by nailing five shots from three and another from the line. Joe Mooney added another 15 points by nailing three of his six field goals from three

Outside of the Beach’s brief lead late second half lead, it chased the Aggies for most of the game since UC Davis held the lead for 35 minutes of game time. The Ags led 36-29 at the break, and maintained that cushion until a six-point outburst from LBSU throughout the final minutes of action gave it a one-point lead until Gonzalez’ dagger, from the near corner, turned a two-point deficit into a one point advantage with 30 ticks on the clock for the Ags.

The final home game of the season will take place on Thursday when men’s basketball hosts Hawai’i on Senior Night. Tipoff at the Pavilion is set for 7 p.m.; fans are encouraged to arrive early to help the program honor its four graduating seniors.

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