CSUF men’s basketball run into Hazzard, drops Big West title game to UCI

In Men's Basketball, Sports, Top Stories

Poor shooting and UC Irvine’s efficiency from 3-point range ended the CSUF men’s basketball team’s chance at becoming back-to-back Big West champions, as they fell to the Anteaters, 92-64, in the Big West Tournament Final Saturday night.

UCI’s 28-point victory was the largest win in Big West title game history, and led by as many as 32 points for the night.

“They came out and played exceptionally well tonight,” said CSUF head coach Dedrique Taylor. “We ran into a buzzsaw. That team out there, they probably would’ve beat the Lakers.”

UCI finished the night shooting 61.8 percent from the field, compared to the Titans’ 41.2 percent. Three-point shooting was the difference in the game, as the Anteaters made 10 of their 14 3-point shots (71.4 percent), while CSUF was 5-for-21 (23.8 percent).

The win was UCI’s third time beating the Titans this season, and the Anteaters head coach Russell Turner said his team’s ability to stop the CSUF offense led to the season sweep.

“When we played this team this year, we’ve consistently dominated with our defense, so there was nothing about what we did tonight that surprised me,” Turner said.

UCI’s Max Hazzard and Collin Welp led the game in scoring with 23 points each. Hazzard was named tournament MVP, as he fueled an 11-0 run early in the game, making three 3-pointers during the stretch.

“I have a lot of confidence in my ability to shoot the ball. I put in a lot of work and my teammates and coaches have a lot of confidence in me too,” Hazzard said.

CSUF senior guard Kyle Allman Jr. led the Titans with 16 points.

UCI did not let up their hot start, making 10 of their first 13 shots to give them an 18-point lead with 11 minutes left in the first.

The Titans attempted to claw back into the game, getting the deficit down to as much as 11 with under five minutes left in the half. However, CSUF would once again go cold, making only one of their final seven shots to end the half and not scoring in the final three minutes.

The Anteaters finished the first 20 minutes shooting 57.7 percent from the field, while CSUF shot 34.5 percent.

UCI made five of their seven 3-point attempts in the half, with four of them from Hazzard. The Titans were 2-for-13 after missing their first eight attempts from behind the arc.

The Anteaters made their first four shots to open up the second half and took a 29-point lead with 16 minutes left.

CSUF struggled to chip away at UCI’s lead, then the Anteaters went on another scoring streak, with Welp making five out of UCI’s six straight shots. The Titans made five of their final seven shots to finish the night.

As UCI punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament last night, CSUF will decide later if they’ll participate in any postseason play.

“I’m not sure yet. I know there has been some preliminary discussions,” Taylor said. “That’s for our administration and for us to gather and figure out what we want to do next.”

With Allman Jr. and Khalil Ahmad being named to the all-tournament team, Taylor felt his seniors deserved the award, and that they have changed his program.

“They have completely changed the face of Titan basketball forever. Their legacy will be etched in history, and I couldn’t be more proud of what they’ve done for our program,” Taylor said.  “I’m super, super excited to see what their next role will be in life.”

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