UC Irvine will seek its first berth in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament since 1995 and second all-time when it faces top-seeded UC Davis Saturday in the championship game of the Big West Conference Tournament.

The second-seeded Anteaters advanced to the conference tournament’s championship game with a 68-59 semifinal victory over sixth-seeded Cal Poly Friday night where they held the Mustangs scoreless for four minutes, 40 seconds late in the fourth quarter and scored seven unanswered points to take the lead for good.

Sophomore guard Chloe Webb scored a game-high 20 points, while forward Sophia Locandro and freshman guard Victoria Baker each added 11 and redshirt freshman guard Kayla Williams 10 for UC Irvine (15-8).

Sophomore point guard Abbey Ellis led Cal Poly (13-11) with 15 points while sophomore guards Maddie Vick added 11 and Maddie Willett 10.

There were three lead changes and two ties in the fourth quarter which began with the scored tied, 48-48. The score was tied 34-34 at halftime after the Anteaters were outscored, 16-7, in the first quarter.

“We had a slow start but we were able to put it together at the end,” UC Irvine coach Tamara Inoue said.

Saturday’s game at the Michelob Ultra Arena, formerly the Mandalay Bay Events Center, in the unincorporated area of Paradise, Nevada bordering Las Vegas will be the first of the season between the two teams. The Anteaters and Aggies had been scheduled to meet Jan. 8-9 at Davis but the games were canceled to remain compliant with Yolo County health orders.

UC Davis (12-2) has won seven of its last eight games, including a 64-52 semifinal victory over Hawaii on Friday.

UC Irvine will be making its fifth appearance in the Big West Conference Tournament championship game and first since 1997.

The 5 p.m. game will be broadcast by ESPN3. Registration for a virtual championship game watch party hosted by the UCI Alumni Association is available at uci.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJIuc-6hpzgvE9HOOvFKZwNvGM1JIa56tVfd.

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