UPDATED: Warriors routed by Illinois State in Diamond Head opener
A poor second-half effort against an under-rated and strong Illinois State men’s basketball team led to an embarrassing 71-45 defeat for Hawai’i Thursday night in the opening round of the Diamond Head Classic.
A modest crowd of about 4,800 at the Stan Sheriff Center and national ESPN2 TV audience watched the Redbirds jump out to a 10-0 lead and then dominate the second half in improving to 7-3 and advancing to Friday’s 5 p.m. semifinal vs. San Francisco.
The Warriors fell to 4-6 with their third consecutive loss, and will face Utah (7-3) in a 7:30 p.m. consolation bracket game. A day before Christmas Eve, UH already has matched its loss total from last season, and this loss came in particularly bad fashion.
“We were just embarrassed,” said senior Noah Allen, who finished with 10 points on 4-for-13 shooting. “We’re just embarrassed with how we performed tonight. We played terrible, and we let the fans down, we let ourselves down and we let the coaches down. The good thing is, we have another game tomorrow, so we’re just focused on that now and we can’t let that happen again — both individually and collectively.”
Illinois State got early back-to-back 3-pointers from MiKyle McIntosh and Paris Lee and led 10-0 less than three minutes into the game.
Sheriff Drammeh finally got UH on the board with a 3-pointer from the left wing with 16:53 remaining in the half, and his drive and short banker from the left side later drew the Warriors to 10-7 with 14:23 left, but the Redbirds answered with a 7-0 run and Phil Fayne’s layup made it 17-7 midway through the half.
Gibson Johnson’s free throw with 55.6 seconds remaining closed it to 31-25, but DJ Clayton’s two free throws 10 seconds later gave Illinois State a 33-25 halftime lead.
The Warriors shot a dismal 23.3 percent (7 of 30) from the field in the first half, including just 21.4 percent (3 of 14) from 3-point range.
Allen’s 3-pointer from the right corner 27 seconds into the second half cut it to 35-28, but the Redbirds responded with three straight jumpers to push the lead to 41-28 with 18:20 left.
After a UH timeout, Allen scored on a dribble-drive to close it to 41-30 and following an Illinois State turnover on the ensuing possession, he swished a 3-pointer from the left wing that would have cut the deficit to eight points. But the basket was waived off due to a questionable traveling call, and the Redbirds capitalized with consecutive 3-pointers by Tony Wills and Hawkins to stretch the lead to 47-30 with 15:34 remaining.
The Warriors then went over 13 minutes without a field goal (0 for 15) after Brocke Stepteau’s 3-pointer with 15:10 left.
“That speaks of our being fragile,” Hawai’i coach Eran Ganot said. “If you get a travel, then get back and get a stop. If they hit a 3, then get a good shot. Like with Jack (Purchase), he missed a couple good looks and it affected the rest of his game. But why should it affect the rest of your game? It shouldn’t, but that’s what we’re dealing with right now — individually and collectively.”
After the game, an emotional Ganot called the Warriors’ second half effort “probably one of the worst performances in that arena, in this event, we’ve seen.”
“I think the people in Hawai’i deserve better,” he added. “We got down 10, started executing and got some good looks but didn’t make them … and then what happened afterward was — and I want to preface this by saying it starts with me — about as horrid an effort as a team could put out. And that’s a shame.”
Ganot said since the Warriors’ last game on Dec. 7, they took a few days off to prepare for final exams, then fought through some injuries that kept a couple players out longer, but otherwise had no reason not to be better prepared for Thursday’s Classic opener.
“There’s never an excuse for not giving it your all,” Ganot said. “That just should never happen. Obviously our team is pretty fragile, I think that’s something we have to keep getting through and hopefully have some breakthroughs to get rid of that part of our persona … There’s a lot of things going against you, but you still can find a way — there’s so many things going FOR us, there’s so many ways to get things done.
“But we can’t get things done if our point of attack, our approach, is not where it needs to be. You can overcome guys not playing well. You can. I don’t know if our team can — it hasn’t figured it out yet, because we need all of our guys firing to be our best. But you cannot put out an effort like that (tonight), that’s what’s disrespectful.
“They wanted it more than us, and as a coach, there might not be a more difficult thing to say.”
Ganot said UH’s lack of floor leadership was exposed throughout the game.
“We talked about it being a quiet gym — our guys need to talk,” Ganot said. “Show me a good team, and I’ll show you good leadership. And Illinois State is a good example of that. They had some adversity, they went through a stretch when their shooting wasn’t great, but you could see the difference in how the two teams handled it. We need someone to emerge as a leader.”
“We obviously took a step back today, in a big way,” Ganot said. “That was a poor effort, at the highest level … But you have an opportunity in life to live another day. You have an opportunity to turn around and get ready for a good Utah team. But if our team doesn’t respond, we’re gonna keep having this conversation.”
Stepteau said it is time for the team to turn words into action.
“It’s a good thing (to play the next day) if we change, but we gotta make that change,” he said. “We keep talking about changing, but at the end of the day, we gotta do it. (Utah) is not going to feel sorry for us, they’re gonna try and kick us in the teeth. So as men, as representatives of this state, it’s a great opportunity to try and put on a good performance.”
Stepteau, Allen and Johnson led UH with 10 points each, but on combined 9-for-32 (28.1 percent) shooting.
(Game photos courtesy Brandon Flores / www.brandonfloresphotography.com)
Tulsa 74, Stephen F. Austin 51
San Diego State 66, Southern Miss 51
San Francisco 89, Utah 86
Illinois State 71, Hawai’i 45
11:30 a.m. – Tulsa vs. San Diego State
1:30 p.m. – Stephen F. Austin vs. Southern Miss
5:00 p.m. – San Francisco vs. Illinois State
7:30 p.m. – Hawai’i vs. Utah
7:30 a.m. – 5th place OR 7th place game
9:30 a.m. – 5th place OR 7th place game
1:00 p.m. – 3rd place game
3:00 p.m. – Championship game
HAWAI’I VS. UTAH
When: Friday, December 23, 7:30 p.m. (Hawai’i time)
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
Tickets: Lower level – $30; Upper level – $18 (students and senior citizens can purchase $10 tickets in select sections). Parking is $6.
Television: ESPNU (Oceanic channels 221 and 1221)
Streaming Video: www.ESPN3.com
Radio: ESPN 1420 AM
Live Stats: Statbroadcast.com
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