Mustangs run wild over Warriors
The uniforms said Hawai’i, but the performance certainly did not look like the Hawai’i basketball team on Thursday night.
The Warriors had their worst showing of the season in an 88-59 road loss at Cal Poly. A crowd of 2,122 at Mott Athletics Center in San Luis, Obispo, Calif., watched the Mustangs surprisingly dominate the game in virtually all phases from start to finish.
“We’re not a particularly really quick team and we don’t have great shooters, but we are big and we are strong and so our strengths go back to getting the ball inside and when we miss get to the offensive glass,” Hawai’i head coach Gib Arnold said during a post-game radio interview. “If we don’t do that, if our strengths leave us, we’ve a very average team. Tonight we didn’t rebound the way we can, we didn’t guard the post the way we can and it looked like they were a step quicker in every little thing. It’s very frustrating.”
The Warriors dropped to 10-9 overall and are now in sixth place in the Big West Conference at 4-4. Cal Poly improved to 8-9 overall and is in a three-way tie for third place at 4-3.
Forwards Christian Standhardinger and Isaac Fotu scored 14 points each to lead the Warriors. Brandon Jawato added 12 points, including three 3-pointers, off the bench.
Senior center Vander Joaquim had his worst game of the season with two points and one rebound in 12 minutes.
“Vander was a mystery to me today,” Arnold said. “I don’t have an answer to why he wasn’t there tonight. Obviously we’re going to need him and have to get his mind right … it wasn’t physical, I think it was mental.”
The trio of Joaquim, Standhardinger and Fotu entered the game averaging a combined 23 rebounds per game, but they had a total of just nine against the Mustangs. As a result, Cal Poly out-rebounded the Warriors by a stunning 38-21 advantage.
Hawai’i entered the game ranked first in the Big West in rebounding, while the Mustangs were last.
“We haven’t had a game like that all year,” Arnold said. “Even against bigger and stronger teams.”
The Warriors opened the game with a 4-0 lead, but Cal Poly responded with a 14-0 run to take a 14-4 lead. The Mustangs led by as many as 16 later in the first half. A 3-pointer by Jawato just before the first half buzzer cut the Cal Poly lead to 38-26 at intermission.
However, Cal Poly opened the second half with a 15-3 run, and the Warriors never recovered.
The Mustangs finished the game with a .564 field goal percentage – the best by a Hawai’i opponent this season. The 29-point margin of defeat was also the largest of the season for the Warriors.
“It’s a good team but I do think we caught them at a great time,” Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero said of the Warriors. “That’s a tired team. You could see the fatigue they had in their legs and their eyes and their bodies.
“Our point was to be that aggressive and chase down offensive boards and make them have to defend … take their legs out. I think we showed that we were the fresher team.”
The Warriors shot 40 percent from the field, and had just eight assists against 13 turnovers, but it was the season-low rebounding effort that hurt them most.
Arnold shuffled his backcourt again, starting Manroop Clair and Brandon Spearman. Clair (26 minutes) got most of the minutes at point guard, and finished with three points and four assists.
Cal Poly’s starting forward tandem of Chris Eversley (19 points, eight rebounds) and Brian Bennett (17 points, nine rebounds) combined for 36 points and 17 boards. Drake U’u, a surprise starter at point guard for the Mustangs, finished with 14 points and eight assists.
It was the first of four consecutive road games for the Warriors. They will remain in Southern California today, and will play at UC Santa Barbara on Saturday.