UC Davis Edges North Carolina Central 67-63 In A Very Entertaining Play-In Game

Despite blowing nine-point leads in the first and second half, the UC Davis Aggies were able to find a way to grind out a hard-fought 67-63win over the North Carolina Central Eagles and advance to the round of 64.

The Aggies, playing in their first NCAA Tournament, came out swinging versus the MEAC champions and landed multiple blows early in the game. Davis found multiple ways to exploit the NC Central defense and held an 18-9 lead nearly midway through the first half.

Instead of panicking, the Eagles calmly switched to a 1-3-1 zone defense to stifle the UC Davis momentum. Results quickly showed with the Eagles rolling to an 11-0 run over the next four plus minutes. It was eerily reminiscent of the MEAC title game in which Norfolk State went over 11 minutes scoreless.

When Davis finally ended their drought, the game was brand new with a 21-21 scoreline. A combination of the Aggies figuring out the zone defense and Central unable to finish multiple attempts at the basket kept the game virtually square into the halftime break. Only a Dajuan Graf jumper separated the teams with NC Central heading to intermission leading 33-31.

The early portion of the second half was nearly a replica of the first with Davis slowly building a lead with solid shotmaking. Again, right near the midway point of the half, the Aggies built their lead to nine points. This time it was from a three-pointer via Brynton Lemar that gave Davis a 49-40 lead.

It took much longer this time for the Eagles to crawl back into the game, but scratch and crawl is what they did. A concerted effort to limit any solid shots and a renewed scoring touch saw Central finally pull within striking range from a Rashaun Madison bomb to cut the deficit to 60-58 with four minutes remaining.

From then on, it was Davis finding a variety of ways to hold their slim margin. From defensive stops to multiple free throws, it always seemed like Central was one step short of swinging momentum.

Trailing 66-63 with under :30 on the clock, the Eagles got one more chance to tie the game. Patrick Cole and Dejuan Graf both had shots from behind the arc to tie the game, but neither were able to find its mark. Finally, Lemar took it upon himself to finish off the Eagles with a devastating rebound. He was then able to hit one of two free throws after being fouled to give UC Davis a 67-63 win.

It was an excellent game between two desperate teams and credit goes to Central for even staying as close as they did. They show 35.8% for the night and still had a chance to tie the game at the end.

For UC Davis, they are 1-0 as an NCAA Tournament team and are headed to Tulsa, Oklahoma to face the top seeded Kansas Jawhawks. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:50 PM CST on Friday.

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