LAS VEGAS -- — Dawson Baker and Collin Welp each scored 17 points, DJ Davis scored 14 and UC Irvine fended off UC Riverside 78-61 in the semifinals of the Big West Conference Tournament on Friday night.
The second-seeded Anteaters (18-8) will take on top-seeded UC Santa Barbara in Saturday's championship game.
Welp was just 3-of-14 from the field but added 11 of 13 from the free-throw line. UC Irvine was 26 of 30 at the line — 16 of 19 after halftime. Nearly half of Irvine's second-half points came from the line.
A Davis jumper put the Anteaters up 62-46 with 8:41 remaining — matching their largest lead of the game at 16 points.
Riverside (14-8), holding its highest-ever seed into the tourney at three, rallied with an 12-5 run over the next five minutes and cut the lead down to nine. But Baker and Isaiah Lee scored back-to-back, pushing Irvine's advantage back to 14 and the Anteaters closed it out with free throws.