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UPDATED: Warriors cap memorable night with memorable win over Fullerton

On an emotional night filled with both fond memories of in-the-flesh legends plus pulsating inspiration provided by current-day Warriors, Hawai’i put on a show-stopping performance Saturday to stun Cal State Fullerton, 64-58 in overtime, in thrilling Big West Conference men’s basketball action.

An energetic and appreciative “White-Out” Senior Night crowd of 7,450 at the Stan Sheriff Center watched lone senior Noah Allen score a game-high 21 points with six rebounds and three steals, and Jack Purchase add 13 points — including two 3-pointers in OT — and six boards as the Warriors improved to 14-13 overall, 8-6 in the Big West. The Titans, who had won four in a row and six of their previous seven games, fell to 14-13, 8-6. Both teams are now tied for third place in the conference after splitting the regular-season series.

Gibson Johnson added 11 points, six boards and four spectacular blocks for UH. Sheriff Drammeh added nine points, including 5-of-6 free throw shooting in the overtime.

“I’m really proud of guys, down the stretch, their resilience, their poise …, ” said Warriors coach Eran Ganot. “We’ve been in three overtime games, and we’re undefeated in overtime. We’ve had a lot of close games, and our group is maturing before our eyes. Their confidence, and their poise, making big defensive stops. There was a stretch where the game could have gotten away, we were down 40-33. But their composure did not (get away), and that’s a credit to them. I’m really happy and pleased for them to have this moment. This is an opportunity to celebrate Noah, and celebrate this group.”

The celebration certainly was hard-fought.

Hawaii led, 23-21, after a defensive grind of a first half, but Cal State Fullerton took the lead early in the second half and extended it to 40-33 after Arkim Robertson’s slam dunk with 10:38 remaining.

“They (the Titans) have been really good defensively, we got some (points) in transition early, but then we missed some bunnies and we missed some free throws that we hadn’t normally missed,” Ganot said. “But (it’s) a credit to their defense, that’s why they’ve made their move (in the conference standings). And that’s how we’ll make our move — it’s on the defensive end. You gotta win a lot of different ways.”

Ganot said on offense, his team showed discipline in sticking to the game plan.

“If the shot falls for you, or if it doesn’t, you have to believe in your maturity to stay with it,” Ganot said. “We were getting good looks early, missed some shots. But credit to (the Warriors) for staying positive and saying, ‘We gotta keep taking the good looks.’ We did, and it started working in our favor.”

UH clawed back and eventually closed it to 46-45 on Allen’s layup off Johnson’s assist with 1:09 remaining, and the Warriors then gained possession back after a Titans miss at the other end of the court.

After a timeout with 29.1 seconds on the clock, Hawai’i worked the ball around the perimeter and Allen drove to the basket but missed at point blank range, with Drammeh coming up with the loose ball rebound and being fouled to set up the game-tying free throw with 4.2 seconds left.

Drammeh made the first of two free throws to tie the score at 46-46, but missed the second attempt and Cal State Fullerton grabbed the rebound but could not get off a shot before the horn.

On the Warriors bench prior to the overtime tipoff, the players were noticeably fired up.

“They started to say, ‘We love this, we live for this,’ ” Ganot said. “You have to embrace these moments, it’s such a great thing to be around as a coach. Belief’s a big deal, and check the belief in that huddle during a critical time. It’s really good. Give them credit for performing, but it starts with the approach. Your best leadership comes from the players — I don’t need to be ‘Mr. Coach’ all the time. That huddle, that talk was unreal — our poise and our confidence was unreal, to the point where as a coach you sit back and watch them lead. There’s nothing better as coach than to see your team develop not just on the basketball floor, but also develop that kind of leadership.

“Sometimes you gotta get out of the way and enjoy it.”

Allen said he and his teammates were sure they could finish the job in the extra period.

“Once we went into overtime, we were pretty confident,” Allen said. “We kind of had the momentum going. The crowd really got behind us … I think we were all just confident that we would play our game, play the right way and as long as we did that, the results were gonna take care of themselves.”

Purchase opened the overtime period by promptly swishing 3-pointer from the left corner to put UH ahead for good, and the Warriors ultimately sealed the victory with 9-2 run after the Titans had closed it to 51-50 on Jackson Rowe’s free throw with 2:45 left.

“We had all the (post-game) ceremonies and stuff, but the biggest thing we focused on was getting the win,” said Allen, who was honored with a highlight film, “final dunk” and commemorative plaque, followed by a hug from his mother. “We’re just happy to get a win, and now we gotta go on the road and get some more. Shout out to the fans for helping us through the tough times in this game.

“I’m just so thankful, to be embraced by family like this — the coaching staff and teammates and the university — I’m so thankful. I’m just beyond thankful.”

Ganot said the program and its fans should be equally grateful to Allen, who transferred to UH last summer after seeing limited playing time in three seasons at UCLA.

“I’m not sure anyone could come and make as big an impact in as short a period of time as he has with our program, under the circumstances,” Ganot said. “To make the jump he made, and see him develop, to regain that confidence … he always had the potential, and he’s a great human being from a great family. A pillar in the community. From afar, having known him, just to see those breakthroughs, the appreciation our guys have for him, this arena has for him … and then to see the leadership come in, to see him lead a huddle.”

During halftime, the three newest members of UH’s “Circle of Honor” — single-game scoring record (45 points) holder Tony Davis, sportscaster Jim Leahey and all-time winningest coach Riley Wallace — were formally inducted. But after the game, the Warriors presented each of the inductees with a commemorative jersey and showed their own appreciation.

“(Wallace) means a lot to me, obviously,” said Ganot, who was hired by Wallace as a Director of Basketball Operations in 2006. “We talk about the history of this program, and there’s always opportunity to celebrate guys, and this Circle of Honor presents that — three guys with basketball ties. We talked about those ‘Circle of Honor’ plaques (on the walls of the arena concourse) … we needed to focus on the game, but we felt it was important to celebrate them as well, so we did it after.

“Riley Wallace is a mentor of mine, it was my first paid job, he worked me hard … He’s done so much for this program, for this university. I’ve learned so much from him, not just basketball but about leadership. How much work he put into this arena, every athletic function he’d go there and support, while he’s been here and since he’s been gone. I’m not sure if anyone bleeds green more than Riley Wallace.

“He changed my life, and he’s changed a lot of people’s lives. He’s a legend in so many ways. I can’t thank him enough, it was a special moment.”

CLICK HERE to view boxscore

(Game photos courtesy Matt Osumi and Brandon Flores / www.brandonfloresphotography.com)

CLICK HERE to view photo gallery

Saturday’s Results
Cal Poly 84, at UC Riverside 77 (OT)
at UC Davis 75, Long Beach State 71 (OT)
at UC Irvine 83, CSUN 80
at Hawai’i 64, Cal State Fullerton 58 (OT)

Wednesday’s Games
UC Riverside at UC Irvine

Thursday’s Games
CSUN at Cal Poly
UC Santa Barbara at Cal State Fullerton
Hawai’i at UC Davis, 5:00 p.m. (Hawai’i time)

7 Comments

  1. Great team win and nice ending to the home season. Congratulations to the Circle of Honor inductees. Coach Wallace set the standard of what UH basketball should be. Coach Ganot continues that tradition and the future looks bright. Go Bows!

  2. Thanks for the highlights of last night, including the Circle of Honor. You got most of the players in the video at the end.
    Sheriff made a key play to come up with the ball near the end of regulation and make a FT. Gibson is the rim protector.
    Attendance per newspaper, 5,975 .

  3. Not one for the faint of heart or offensive-basketball purist, but just a gut-it-out kind of game. Both teams played tenacious defense, with Fullerton cutting off the interior passing lanes. For some reason, Gibson struggled securing the ball and completing plays, but he came up huge with four blocks and a key basket in overtime.

    In the kind of game in which every point was to be cherished, UH left a lot of them at the free-throw line, where it went an uncharacteristic 19 of 31. That’s 12 potential points (plus I recall at least one miss on the front end of a 1-and-1). Then you add the blown missed call on Rowe’s three-step layup early in the second half. That was so evident, and the crowd reacted … particularly when a slow-mo replay allowed you to count the steps he took. It resulted in a three-point play.

    Again, mahalo to Noah for a great senior season; perhaps there will be more than two games left on the schedule. If not, pro ball and law school await this humble, and driven, young man.

    And congrats to Riley, Jim and Tony. Well-deserved honors for all three.

    A recurring thought: There were some 1,500 no-shows. What do these people do with their tickets? Can’t the unused tickets be given to youth teams? Such a waste. Oh, well, they missed a great Senior Night win.

  4. Kudos to the team for their tenacity and perseverance in pulling through a tough win. Onward to UC Davis. Take it to UC Davis ! Go Warriors!

  5. NCAA decision expected soon, could be tomorrow.

  6. So, if…

  7. So, if .. we can play in the post season, and if .. we make it to the dance, we might get scheduled to play a first round game at home. Which then might be the last home game. And we could do this all over again ! Go Bows !

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