UC-Davis advances to face Kansas

Les beat Self in the tourney in 2006

North Carolina Central's Rashaun Madison (3) defends against UC Davis' Arell Hennings (4) during the first half of a First Four game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Dayton, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The first NCAA Tournament appearance in UC-Davis men’s basketball history will last at least two games.

The Aggies won their March Madness debut Wednesday night, at the First Four, in Dayton, Ohio. Their 67-63 victory over North Carolina Central set up a Friday meeting in Tulsa, Okla., versus the Midwest’s No. 1 seed, Kansas.

It also means a rematch of sorts between UC-Davis head coach Jim Les and KU coach Bill Self. Les, who coached Bradley for nine seasons before moving on to the Big West, led his 2005-06 Braves past Self’s Jayhawks in a first-round upset. The two coaches will square off again at 5:50 p.m. Friday, 11 years to the day after their memorable meeting.

UC Davis head coach Jim Les fires up his players as he prepares to cut the net after his team's 50-47 win against UC Irvine in an NCAA college basketball game for the championship of the Big West tournament Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Prior to his team’s First Four victory, Les was asked how his experience leading Bradley to the Sweet 16 might help his current squad’s chances.

“Well, I think it helps me in the perspective of just getting them ready for what’s coming,” Les said. “And even we talked about that Saturday. We talked about that Sunday. If I can give them a snapshot of what they’re going to experience and so they can kind of mentally prepare so they’re not surprised.”

The Aggies (23-12) advanced by holding N.C. Central to 36-percent shooting. Starting forward Chima Moneke hurt the Eagles often, on his way to a double-double (18 points, 12 rebounds). Senior UCD guard Brynton Lemar knocked in three of six 3-pointers, helping his 15-point night.

UC-Davis struggled offensively down the stretch, going without a field goal for the final 5:40 of the win. But the Aggies also forced NCC to miss its final five shots from the floor.

The Aggies said ahead of beating the Eagles they hoped to overcome history and become the first 16 seed in NCAA Tournament history to topple a No. 1.

“Well, I believe in our team,” began Lemar, a 6-foot-4 guard from San Diego. “We’ve been playing with each other since Costa Rica, since this summer. And I believe that we can upset hopefully the No. 1 seed.”

UC-Davis has a couple of Kansas connections on its roster. Reserve forward Georgi Funtarov played high school basketball in Lawrence, at both Free State High and Bishop Seabury Academy, after moving to the U.S. from Bulgaria.

Likewise, sophomore guard Siler Schneider played his prep basketball in the Sunflower State, at Lansing.

Schneider played 17 minutes off the UCD bench against NCCU, scoring four points in his first NCAA Tournament game. Funtarov did not play.

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