UPDATED: Hurtful loss for Warriors at Pacific
STOCKTON, Calif. – Some losses hurt more than others. The Hawai’i basketball team experienced an especially hurtful one in the form of an 80-71 defeat at Pacific.
A crowd of 2,187 at the Alex G. Spanos Center watched the Tigers win the battle for second place in the Big West Conference while avenging a loss to the Warriors last month.
In addition to losing the game, the Warriors played the second half without starting guard Brandon Spearman, who suffered an ankle injury late in the first half. He left the arena on crutches, and will have his ankle examined by doctors when the team returns to Honolulu.
“It’s too early to tell; too swollen,” Arnold said of the severity of the injury. “It’s an ankle injury. Whether it’s torn or broken or sprained, we won’t know until we get it checked out by the doctors.”
The Warriors dropped to 15-11 overall and are now in fourth place in the Big West at 9-6. The Tigers improved to 15-10 and 9-4, including 7-0 at home against Big West opponents.
“It seemed like we had about a five, six-minute spurt there in the second half coming out of the locker room that we weren’t quite as bouncy as we were before,” Arnold said. “Outside of that small little stretch, I thought the guys competed all night. I told them be proud of this effort. We got beat by a good team that hasn’t lost at home.”
Christian Standhardinger returned to form with 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting to lead the Hawai’i offense. He also grabbed a team-high nine rebounds and had four assists, two nights after scoring a season-low six points in a loss at UC Davis.
“We were missing Brandon Spearman a lot,” Standhardinger said. “He gave us good defense and good hustle plays. He’s a very talented scorer and we had to adjust and we didn’t do that very good.”
Isaac Fotu added 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting, and Vander Joaquim finished with 10 points and five rebounds despite foul problems in both halves. Senior point guard Jace Tavita had nine points, eight assists and zero turnovers.
The Warriors committed just eight turnovers, and shot a respectable 44.6 percent from the field. However, Pacific shot 51.1 percent from the field and out-rebounded the Warriors, 34-29. A month ago, the Tigers went 3 for 27 from 3-point range in a 60-52 loss at Hawai’i. This time, Pacific shot an efficient 5 for 9 from beyond the arc.
“I think we did things to win the game,” Arnold said. “We kept our turnovers down to eight. We stayed together, we ran our stuff well. We had a spurt there where they scored, I think, eight straight times, which was the difference in the game. Honestly, I think that Brandon Spearman going down there late (in the first half) was kind of emotional.”
The Warriors had the lead at the end of the first half, and seemed to match the Tigers shot for shot … except for a six-minute stretch early in the second half when Pacific gained control with a 15-0 run. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Tigers’ decisive run came moments after Spearman’s injury.
“When you take a big blow like that, such a good player like Spearman, it has an emotional affect on us, and I think that’s what it did at halftime,” Fotu said.
A 3-pointer by Spearman put the Warriors ahead, 36-32, late in the first half. On the ensuing possession, Spearman went up to challenge a layup attempt by Pacific’s Lorenzo McCloud. Spearman landed awkwardly and screamed in pain as he fell to the court.
Moments later, every player in a Hawai’i uniform got up from the bench to help carry Spearman off the court. That play occurred with 1.8 seconds remaining in the first half.
“Normally, you come into the locker room up a few points on the road playing well, it’s kind of bouncy and lively,” Arnold said. “The locker room when we came in there after checking on Brandon, it was really quiet and solemn.”
Spearman emerged from the locker room early in the second half – with the aid of the crutches – and joined his teammates on the bench.
Hauns Brereton hit a jumper early in the second half to give the Warriors a 38-33 lead, but the Tigers then went on the 15-0 surge to take a 48-38 lead with 12:52 remaining.
Without Spearman, the Warriors started the second half with their big lineup, using 6-10 Joaquim, 6-8 Standhardinger and 6-8 Fotu together, alongside 6-6 Hauns Brereton and 6-4 Tavita.
“We went big again, which took us out of the defenses that we were able to run earlier,” Arnold said. “Brandon is such a good defender, too, that obviously hurt us. More than that, I thought the emotional part of it kind of drained us a little bit.”
Pacific increased the lead to as many as 12, before the Warriors cut it to seven, 61-54, with 5:47 remaining. The Tigers maintained the advantage by going 13 for 14 on free throws in the final five minutes.
Pacific went 27 for 33 (81.8 percent) on free throws for the game, while the Warriors went 15 for 23 (65.2 percent).
Travis Fulton scored a career-high 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting for the Tigers, and McCloud added 20 points (including 12 of 14 free-throw shooting) and 12 rebounds.
A week ago, the Warriors were in second place in the Big West and on a five-game winning streak. They are scheduled to return to Honolulu on Sunday and will play their next three games in the Stan Sheriff Center, starting with a non-conference game against Northern Arizona on Saturday, February 23, at 5 p.m.
“it’s going to be good to get back to the Stan Sheriff for a couple of weeks,” Arnold said. “Our goal is to get on that winning streak again and ride it as long as we can. This is the time. We took a couple of bumps on the road. That’s not uncommon. Most teams do. We just can’t drop our heads. We just gotta keep going and getting better.”
(Game photos courtesy Bryan Davis/University of the Pacific)