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Fired Dan Monson guides Long Beach State back to NCAA tournament

Fired Dan Monson guides Long Beach State back to NCAA tournament
Fired Dan Monson guides Long Beach State back to NCAA tournament

Lassina Traore had a career-high 25 points, Marcus Tsohonis scored 25 and hit two clutch free throws with 3.6 seconds remaining to help No. 4 seed Long Beach State beat second-seeded UC Davis 74-70 on Saturday night in the championship game of the Big West Conference tournament, sending coach Dan Monson to the NCAA tournament in his final season with the Beach.

It was an improbable run for the Beach after the school announced Monday it would part ways with Monson after 17 seasons.

Lassina Traore sank 12 of 17 shots and his only free throw for Long Beach State (21-14), which entered the tournament on a five-game losing streak before beating No. 5 seed UC Riverside and top-seeded UC Irvine to reach the final. He added nine rebounds, five of them at the offensive end. Tsohonis hit eight of 21 shots with four three-pointers and five of six foul shots.

Long Beach State players and coach Dan Monson, front right, celebrate after defeating UC Davis in the Big West tournament championship game.

(Ronda Churchill / Associated Press)

Aboubacar Traore, no relation to Lussina, finished with seven points, 13 rebounds and six assists for the Beach. AJ George added nine points and seven rebounds off the bench.

Ty Johnson paced the Aggies (20-13) with 30 points, six rebounds and four assists. Elijah Pepper hit four four-pointers and scored 21, adding nine rebounds and three assists.

Johnson had 11 points and Pepper scored 10 to guide UC Davis to a 32-27 advantage at halftime. Tsohonis had 15 points at the break to keep Long Beach State close.

Lussina Traore scored 19 in the second half. His rebound basket pulled Long Beach State at 54-54 and George followed with a three-pointer to give the Beach a 57-54 lead with 7:29 remaining. It was their first lead since 15-12.

UC Davis closed to within a point twice and trailed 72-70 on an Ade Adebayo layup with 4 seconds to go, but Tsohonis was clutch at the line to wrap up the win.

Monson, who started Gonzaga’s unprecedented run of success when he led the Bulldogs to the Elite Eight in 1999 before leaving to take over an embattled Minnesota Golden Gophers program and turning Gonzaga’s reins over to Mark Few, has the Beach in the Big Dance for the first time since he took them in 2012 when Long Beach was known as the 49ers.

Monson is the school’s winningest coach. He has 275 victories and 272 losses.

UC Irvine women take Big West crown

UC Irvine guard Deja Lee looks to pass against UC Davis on Saturday.

UC Irvine guard Deja Lee looks to pass against UC Davis on Saturday.

(Ronda Churchill / Associated Press)

Deja Lee scored 21 points, Moulayna Johnson Sidi Baba added 13 points and nine rebounds, and UC Irvine defeated UC Davis 53-39.

The Anteaters (23-8) advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995, their only previous appearance.

Evanne Turner scored 18 points — nearly half of her team’s total — for UC Davis (20-14).

Diaba Konate had 10 points for UC Irvine.

The Anteaters dominated the third quarter, their 23-4 advantage extending a two-point halftime lead to 45-23 entering the fourth. Lee scored 12 points in the third on 4-for-4 shooting, including two three-pointers.

Johnson Sidi Baba, who sank of 11 of 12 from the line, made five of six free throws in a one-minute stretch in the fourth quarter, giving UC Irvine a 53-29 lead with 3:41 remaining. Turner scored the next eight points for UC Davis and the Aggies scored the last 10 points of the game.

Johnson Sidi Baba scored six points and UC Irvine raced to a 12-2 lead in the first five minutes, but the Anteaters scored just nine points the rest of the half and led 21-19 at the break.

UC Irvine is on a season-long six-game win streak. All six of those victories have come by a double-digit margin.

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