ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Max Hazzard and Collin Welp each scored 23 points, UC Irvine made 61.8 percent of its shots from the field and the Anteaters won their second Big West Tournament title in five years with a 92-64 rout of Cal State Fullerton in Saturday night’s championship game.
The Anteaters (30-5) are headed to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history. Their previous trip was in 2015.
Hazzard made five of UC Irvine’s 10 3-pointers as it led for almost the entire game and was up by 32 midway through the second half. Welp, a redshirt freshman, came off the bench and set a career high in points.
Robert Cartwright and Even Leonard each scored 10 points for UC Irvine, which has won 16 straight and is the first Big West school to reach 30 wins since UNLV went to the Final Four in 1990-91 and finished 34-1. It was 34 of 55 from the field, including 10 of 14 on 3-ponters.
They took control early, scoring 11 straight points to burst out to a 13-4 lead with 16:21 remaining in the first half. Hazzard scored nine points during the run, all on 3-pointers.
A 3-pointer by Welp with 15:13 left put UC Irvine up by 12 (22-10) and kept the margin in double digits for the rest of the game.
The Anteaters led 42-24 at halftime and kept extending their lead.
Cal State Fullerton: The Titans won last year’s tournament final against Irvine, but could not do it two years in a row. They are 3-3 in the final and have lost 10 of 11 in tournament games where they are matched up against the top seed.
UC Irvine: The Anteaters might have bragging rights as the best team in California this season. They have the most wins of any of the state’s Division I teams.
Cal State Fullerton: Season complete.
UC Irvine: Finds out its NCAA Tournament destination Sunday.