UPDATED: Warriors beat Matadors in Big West debut
In an action-packed thriller from start to finish, the Hawai’i men’s basketball team made its Big West Conference debut a rousing success by holding off Cal State Northridge, 74-71, Saturday night at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Christian Standhardinger scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds and Isaac Fotu added 16 points and 11 boards as a high-volume crowd of 5,917 watched the Warriors improve to 7-5 overall; the Matadors fell to 9-4.
“I just told the guys in the locker room that I couldn’t be more proud of the group as a whole, I couldn’t be happier,” UH coach Gib Arnold said. “Everybody who played tonight contributed to the win in some way. (Northridge) was the hottest team in the Big West — they’re quick, they’re athletic, they’re well-coached … but we were able to sustain their runs and do what we do best, which is run and go inside.”
Vander Joaquim added 12 points and 11 rebounds and Brandon Jawato contributed 12 points — including 3 of 5 shooting from 3-point range — for the Warriors.
Stephan Hicks scored 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead the Matadors.
CSUN jumped out to a 13-2 lead and was up, 25-17, after Allan Guei’s layup with 9:13 remaining in the first half. But UH responded with a stunning 18-0 run fueled by electric fast breaks that got the fans into a frenzy. Hicks finally broke the string with a pair of free throws with 5:13 left, but the Warriors maintained the lead and went into the break ahead, 44-33.
“We got a lot of fast breaks, and that’s our game,” said Standhardinger, who started the run with a leaner and short bank shot. “Coach smelled a weakness (in the Matadors) and we were able to take advantage of it. We had a huge advantage inside with Fotu and Vander.”
Hicks sparked an 11-2 run early in the second half that gave Northridge the lead again at 56-54, and his baseline jumper with 7:02 remaining made it 61-56. Standhardinger then capped an 8-2 spurt by Hawai’i with a reverse layup that put the Warriors back in front, 64-63, with 4:12 left.
Standhardinger, however, had struggled miserably from the free throw line before that — missing his first eight attempts after entering the game shooting a respectable 69 percent from the stripe.
“I figured it out: I didn’t stretch my arm out (on the follow-through),” said Standhardinger, who finally hit one with 4:38 remaining to cut the Matadors’ lead to 63-62. “I still try to do my best with hustle and focus, but if the sucker doesn’t fall, it doesn’t fall. But next game, I will be 100 percent.”
Joaquim’s free throw with 1:06 remaining gave UH the lead for good at 70-69 and Fotu followed with layup off a nifty spin move to push it to 72-69 with 42 ticks left, but Stephen Maxwell’s putback cut it to 72-71 with 15.7 seconds to go. Hauns Brereton was then fouled after a timeout and sank two free throws with 0:09.7 showing on the clock to make it 74-71. Landon Drew’s 23-foot attempt at the buzzer did not draw iron.
“Brandon Spearman came in and made a big stop, locked down on (Drew) and got a piece of that shot,” Arnold said. “That doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, but it was huge.”
Arnold also cited the contributions of Garrett Jefferson, Brereton and Davis Rozitis.
“Garrett comes in and causes a big turnover by Drew (with 56 seconds remaining),” Arnold said. “Hauns comes in and knocks down two free throws when we had been struggling from the line. And Davis plays seven or eight minutes in the first half, gets three blocks and really spurred our run by playing the point in our zone (defense).”
Arnold said Hawai’i's crowd-pleasing fast-break style exhibited during the 18-0 first-half run is something fans can look forward to in the near future.
“That is Warrior basketball,” Arnold said. “It starts with defense, then we rebound, kick it out and run. The crowd was fantastic, they helped us a lot. They were loud, and our guys responded to them.”
Hawai’i returns to action Thursday with another Big West home game against Cal State Fullerton; tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
(Photos courtesy Brandon Flores)
SATURDAY’S BIG WEST SCORES
Cal Poly 58, at UC Riverside 48
at Long Beach State 67, Pacific 63
at Cal State Fullerton 86, UC Santa Barbara 79
at UC Irvine 69, UC Davis 58 (OT)
at Hawai’i 74, Cal State Northridge 71