Warriors come up short in Big West road opener at Cal State Fullerton
The first road and conference game of this season for the University of Hawai’i basketball team turned into a lesson learned.
A quick start and valiant finish by the Warriors were not enough in a 67-64 loss to Cal State Fullerton on Thursday night at Fullerton, Calif. A crowd of 724 at Titan Gym watched the Warriors fall to 6-8 overall and 0-1 in the Big West Conference; CSUF improved to 7-7 and 1-0.
“I was proud of the way we started, proud of the way we finished,” Hawai’i head coach Eran Ganot said in a post-game interview on ESPN1420 radio. “In the middle, obviously, we lost our composure.”
Hawai’i had a 10-point lead early in the game, then fell behind by as many as 13 in the second half, but rallied in the closing minutes and actually had a chance to tie the game with its final possession.
The Warriors were down by 12 with less than three minutes remaining in the game, but responded with an 11-2 surge to cut the CSUF to 67-64 on a Brocke Stepteau driving layup with 44 seconds left.
After a CSUF miss, Hawai’i took possession with 13 seconds remaining, but Leland Green’s off-balance 3-point attempt was well-defended and did not even hit the rim as the final horn sounded. The Warriors were out of timeouts before that final possession.
“We gave ourselves a chance,” Ganot said. “You could tell we did not sort out, and panicked a little bit late there with about 10 seconds to go… all four of our other guys were at the free-throw line extended, and it was very clogged up so we couldn’t get a (clean) look. Something we need to get better at.”
Green led the Warriors with a season-high 12 points, and he also grabbed six rebounds. Sophomore point guard Brocke Stepteau added 11 points, eight rebounds and five assists; junior forward Gibson Johnson added 11 points and eight rebounds, but was limited to 17 minutes due to foul trouble. Sheriff Drammeh contributed 10 points and Jack Purchase scored nine.
“Leland has been coming on,” Ganot said of the freshman guard. “He’s adjusted to staying on the floor without fouling, which has allowed him to gain some confidence.”
The Warriors shot just 34.4 percent from the field (22 for 64), including 19 percent from 3-point range (4 for 21). CSUF shot 45.3 percent (24 for 53) overall, and 16.7 percent (2 for 12) from 3-point range. The Titans also out-rebounded the Warriors, 41-37
The Warriors opened the game with an 8-2 run, and increased it to 15-5 after Green drained a 3-pointer with 14:30 remaining in the first half.
With leading scorer Tre Coggins on the bench for almost the entire first half, the Titans rallied with a 16-4 run to take a 21-19 lead with 7:45 remaining before intermission. Coggins, who entered the game averaging 20.4 points per game, picked up two fouls in the first three minutes of the game and sat for the rest of the half. He scored seven points in the second half.
CSUF eventually took a 30-28 lead at intermission. Hawai’i shot just 25.7 percent (9 for 35) from the field in the first half, including 16.7 percent (2 for 12) from 3-point range.
The Titans stayed in front the entire second half, and used a 10-0 run to increase their advantage to 50-37 with 9:53 remaining.
Lionheart Leslie led the Titans with 14 points, Kyle Allman added 11 points, and Jackson Rowe had 10 points and seven rebounds.
The loss ended a Big West streak of victories by Hawai’i over the Titans. Since joining the Big West in 2013, the Warriors were 9-0 against CSUF, including three wins last season.
Hawai’i will remain in Southern California for a road game at UC Irvine on Saturday. The Anteaters (8-9, 1-0) beat Long Beach State, 82-67, on Wednesday.
Big West Conference
at CSUN 82, UC Riverside 76
at UC Irvine 82, Long Beach State 67
at UC Davis 73, UC Santa Barbara 47
at Cal State Fullerton 67, Hawai’i 64
UC Riverside at Long Beach State
Cal Poly at UC Davis
CSUN at Cal State Fullerton
Hawai’i at UC Irvine, 5:30 p.m. (Hawai’i time)
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