Anaheim, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - UC Irvine will be headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history thanks to a gritty performance on Saturday night.
Luke Nelson scored 17 points to help the Anteaters to a 67-58 win over Hawaii and claim the Big West title.
Will Davis II had 10 points and 10 rebounds and Alex Young added 10 points for third-seeded Irvine (21-12).
Aaron Valdes led the Rainbow Warriors (22-13) with 17 points and Garrett Nevels chipped in with 14.
Isaac Fleming fired in a 3-pointer to give the Warriors a 20-7 lead early on, but the Anteaters slowly chipped away at the deficit.
Mamadou Ndiaye's layup with over three minutes left cut the margin to five, and Hawaii took a 33-29 lead into the locker room at half.
Ioannis Dimakopoulos converted a jumper just before the midway point of the second to give the Anteaters their first lead of the game at 41-39.
Irvine tried to extend the lead, but the Warriors had an answer each time to keep it close.
Vlades nailed a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to two, then Aaron Wright recorded a basket before Young knocked down two free throws for a 56-50 edge. Irvine led by six when Roderick Bobbitt converted a three-point play with under a minute left to make it a one-possession game.
That would be it for Hawaii on the offensive end, however, as Wright and Young made two free throws apiece down the stretch and Davis punctuated the win with a windmill slam.
Hawaii had its three-game winning streak halted ... Irvine has won four straight over the Warriors, including all three meetings this season ... Hawaii was held to 23-of-61 shooting ... The Anteaters had a 24-16 edge in the paint.