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BIG WEST TOURNAMENT

Challenges await as Big West tournament begins

UC Irvine earned No. 5 seeding with late surge but faces No. 8 UC Davis, which won both games in season series.

March 11, 2009|Robyn Norwood

Tonight, Anaheim Convention Center

UC Irvine (12-18) vs. UC Davis (12-18), 6 -- The Anteaters won four of their last five games to earn the No. 5 seeding but were swept in their two-game season series against the No. 8 Aggies, who closed the season with four consecutive losses. Davis senior guard Vince Oliver is a first-team all-conference player, and Irvine forward Eric Wise -- the son of former Long Beach State star Francois Wise -- is among the league's top freshmen.

UC Riverside (17-12) vs. Cal State Fullerton (14-16), about 8 -- The challenge for the sixth-seeded Highlanders against the seventh-seeded Titans is containing Big West player of the year Josh Akognon, who averages 23.5 points and is 15 points shy of Leon Wood's single-season Fullerton scoring record. Riverside is led by Kyle Austin, a transfer from USC who helped the Highlanders set a school record for victories as a Division I program.

Note: Pacific, the third-seeded team, and No. 4 UC Santa Barbara received byes into the quarterfinals Thursday. Top-seeded Cal State Northridge and second-seeded Long Beach State received byes into the semifinals Friday.

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-- Robyn Norwood

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