UPDATED: Warriors drop second straight to UC Riverside
Short-handed UC Riverside still proved too much for a Hawai’i team short on energy Wednesday night, as the visiting Highlanders held off the Warriors, 70-64, in Big West Conference men’s basketball action.
A Stan Sheriff Center crowd of 5,465 watched freshman Dikymbe Martin score 15 points and Alex Larsson add 13 points as the Highlanders improved to 6-11 overall and 4-2 in the Big West with their fourth consecutive victory. Secean Johnson contributed 12 points, including four key free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
Gibson Johnson scored 16 points, Leland Green added 15 points and Sheriff Drammeh contributed 11 points for the Warriors, who fell to 8-11, 2-4. It was Hawai’i’s second consecutive home loss, marking the first time that a UH team dropped back-to-back home games against Big West opponents since joining the conference in 2012-13.
UCR won despite missing its starting backcourt tandem of Chance Murray and Malik Thames, who lead the team in conference scoring with 13.4 and 11.4 points per game, respectively. Both did not make the trip, reportedly due to the “coach’s (Dennis Cutts) decision.”
Green said the last-minute change in lineups did not affect UH’s game plan as much as an overall lack of execution.
“It wasn’t difficult (adjusting), basically everything we went through in walk-through … we just didn’t do our job defensively,” Green said. “It all comes down to effort. We didn’t play with much effort tonight, (but) we’ll change that.”
After Hawai’i took a 35-34 lead on Noah Allen’s three-point play 80 seconds into the second half, Secean Johnson barely beat the shot clock buzzer with a 3-pointer from the left corner to start a 13-4 run as UC Riverside opened up a 48-38 lead midway through the period.
The Warriors clawed back, however, and eventually tied it at 51-51 after Green hit a mid-range jumper from the left side and then a 3-pointer from the right wing to ignite a 13-3 surge capped by Gibson Johnson’s tip-in putback with 7:26 remaining.
The Highlanders then opened up a 56-51 lead after Gentrey Thomas’ finger roll and then Brandon Rosser’s three-point play with 6:34 left. UH was able to tie it again at 59-59 on Gibson Johnson’s free throw with 3:14 remaining, but Martin then put UCR ahead for good with a driving layup with 2:25 left.
“They were really aggressive with their guards, coming downhill off of screens and rolls,” Gibson Johnson said. “They had a good offensive plan and executed it and were able to hit a couple tough shots. We made them take a couple shots that we wanted, and they just ended up making them, and it cost us the game.”
After Martin’s go-ahead basket, Larsson made three of four free throws to push the lead to 64-59 with 1:05 remaining. Allen swished a 3-pointer from the right corner 12 seconds later to close it to 64-62, but he fouled out on the next possession and Secean Johnson made his four free throws at the 35.1 and 13.9-second marks to extend the lead to 68-62.
Gibson Johnson scored on a putback to close it to 68-64 with 2.1 ticks on the clock, but it was too little, too late for the Warriors.
“They were in the right spots (defensively), but I thought we missed a lot of shots that we normally make,” Johnson said. “I think (our) effort could have been better, I think them hitting some tough shots and us not hitting our shots … I think effort also looks bad when we’re not making shots because your morale falls down, feels like you can’t get anything going in a rhythm. But our defensive effort definitely could have been better.”
UC Riverside led at halftime, 34-30, despite not shooting a single free throw. The Highlanders out-rebounded Hawai’i, 14-6, and shot 60 percent (15 of 25) from the field, compared to 42.9 percent (9 of 21) for the Warriors.
Hawai’i hit 5 of 10 shots from 3-point range, but was just 4 of 11 from inside the arc. Allen, who was averaging 27.0 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in the previous three games, finished with eight points and five rebounds before fouling out in the final minute.
Hawai’i had led, 28-27, after Drammeh’s 3-pointer from the right corner with five minutes remaining, but Johnson answered with a layup 40 seconds later to start UCR on a 7-2 run to end the half.
“Give credit to Riverside for coming out ready to play, from the start,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said. “I didn’t do a good job getting our guys ready to go. We were flat, our energy wasn’t there, we weren’t inspired, I was glad at the half that — for some reason — at halftime we were down only four points, and we were in the game.
“But there’s a spirit, and a fight, that needs to be there for any team, especially for a team that is going through some struggles. And we didn’t have that. It’s a disservice to the university, and we gotta get that spirit back, and it starts with me.”
UH returns to action at 7:30 p.m. Saturday against UC Santa Barbara, ending a rare five-game conference homestand. The Warriors are 2-2 through the first four games of the homestand.
“No matter what we’re going through, we gotta continue to fight and work hard in practice,” Green said. “Our whole team needs to do that.”
(Game photos courtesy Chris Kadooka)
CSUN 78, at UC Santa Barbara 57
UC Riverside 70, at Hawai’i 64
Cal Poly 79, at UC Irvine 66
at Long Beach State 76, Cal State Fullerton 65
CSUN at UC Riverside
UC Irvine at UC Davis
Cal Poly at Cal State Fullerton
UC Santa Barbara at Hawai’i, 7:30 p.m.
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