(UL Athletics) – Tommy Rutherford scored 20 points on 9 of 10 shooting from the floor and UC Irvine withstood a pair of rallies to pull way and claim a 92-67 victory over the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns during the final day of the MGM Resorts Main Event on Tuesday at Clark High School.
Collin Welp came off the bench to score 15 points as UC Irvine (4-4), the defending Big West Conference champions and NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships participant, went 19-for-27 (70.4 percent) from the floor in the second half and finished 35-for-57 (61.4 percent) for the game.
UC Irvine, coming off a school-record 31-win season, scored the game’s first 10 points as buckets by Rutherford and Eyassu Worku sandwiched back-to-back 3-pointers by John Edgar, Jr., which allowed the Anteaters to lead from wire-to-wire.
Louisiana trailed 28-12 after Welp drained his second straight 3-pointer with 10:45 remaining in the first half before going on a 12-0 run to get back into the game.
Jalen Johnson opened the run with a basket with 10:26 remaining in the first half before P.J. Hardy added a bucket and 3-pointer to erase UC Irvine’s double-digit lead. Dou Gueye followed with a 3-pointer for Louisiana before a bucket by Johnson with 6:58 remaining in the half cut the Ragin’ Cajuns deficit to 28-24.
But Rutherford scored six points in a 8-0 run as the Anteaters pounded the lane and extended their lead to 36-24.
Louisiana got as close as 48-45 when Hardy buried a 3-pointer with 15:38 remaining, but UC Irvine would respond with a 14-5 run as the Anteaters continued to score from short range in pushing their lead to 62-50.
UC Irvine put the game away scoring on 11 straight possession, beginning with a bucket by Brad Greene with 9:08 remaining. Greene scored 10 of his 12 points during the Anteaters’ 25-12 run as UC Irvine turned a 64-53 contest into an 89-65 cushion that was capped by a Rutherford free throw with 1:32 left.
Worku scored 13 points for the Anteaters with Edgar Jr., adding 12 points and Austin Johnson 10. Edgar, Jr., pulled down a game-high nine rebounds for the Anteaters, who recorded a 43-23 advantage on the glass and held Louisiana to a season-low 31 percent (20-for-64) from the field.
Louisiana, which was held without a field goal for the final 4:26, was led by Hardy’s 18 points. The senior finished 6-for-14 from the floor and 4-for-8 from behind the 3-point line as the Ragin’ Cajuns finished 10-for-23 (43.5 percent) from behind the 3-point line.
Kobe Julien added 13 points for Louisiana with Trajan Wesley scoring a season-high 11 points and tying his career-high with six assists. Johnson added 10 points for the Ragin’ Cajuns with Julien pulling down a team-high eight rebounds.
Louisiana will return to action on Tuesday (Dec. 3) when it returns home to face Southeastern Louisiana at the Cajundome. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.