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Season ends with loss to Long Beach at Big West Tourney

(video courtesy www.hawaiiathletics.com)

Perhaps fitting for a team that gave its all during a season filled with twists and turns, the University of Hawai’i basketball team finished with an empty gas tank.

The Warriors matched Long Beach State for the first 32 minutes, then fell behind in the final eight minutes of a 73-62 loss to the 49ers in a quarterfinal game of the Big West Conference Tournament at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.

Hawai’i, which received word that it could participate in the tournament less than a week ago, completed its season at 14-16, including two consecutive losses to Long Beach to close the season. The Warriors were the No. 5 seed for the tournament.

Long Beach State, which was the No. 4 seed, improved to 15-18 and advanced to Friday’s semifinals against top seed UC Irvine.

“These are tough,” Hawai’i head coach Eran Ganot said. “The finale hits you pretty hard. I was telling the guys it’d be nice to go back to a routine and watch some film and get our guys ready for tomorrow’s game, but it doesn’t work out that way sometimes.”

Senior forward Noah Allen capped his brilliant senior season at UH with 21 points on 7-for-14 shooting. After playing the final collegiate game of his career, he noted: “How thankful and blessed I am to have been given this opportunity to be coached by this staff and to be embraced by my teammates. The fan base and the culture have been really special to me.”

Junior forward Gibson Johnson added 18 points on 8-for-13 shooting, and grabbed six rebounds; Sheriff Drammeh scored nine for the Warriors. Sophomore forward Jack Purchase started, but was limited to two points on 1-of-6 shooting in 25 minutes He was listed as a game-time decision due to an ankle injury.

“It’s tough but that’s why we do what we do, we love the emotion involved, the ups and downs,” Ganot said. “I give credit, obviously, to Long Beach State for a hard fought win. A lot of respect there. They did what they needed to do and made big plays down the stretch, we didn’t, they did and they deserve a lot of credit for that.”

Long Beach State shot 53.1 percent from the field, including a combined 11 for 11 shooting night from forwards Barry Ogalue (7 for 7) and Temidayo Yussuf (4 for 4). Hawai’i shot 38.3 percent from the field, and also did not help its cause at the free-throw line (11 for 21, 52.4 percent).

Long Beach State point guard Justin Bibbins finished with 27 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field and 9 for 9 on free throws. He also had six assists.

“We didn’t play perfect by any means,” Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson said. “Justin (Bibbins) really set the tone for us mentally and he came out and was so aggressive offensively and really carried us until we got some other guys comfortable with the flow. I thought our defense carried us.”

The first 32 minutes of the game featured seven lead changes and 10 ties.

Hawai’i led by as many as six points (17-11 and 19-13) early in the first half, but the 49ers went on a 10-2 surge to take a 23-21 lead with 6:05 remaining in the first half. A 3-pointer by Leland Green gave the lead back to the Warriors at 25-24.

Hawai’i eventually took a 35-33 lead at halftime, with Allen (14) and Johnson (11) accounting for 25 of the points.

Long Beach out-scored Hawai’i 15-6 in the first five minutes of the second half to take a 48-41 advantage.

The Warriors caught the 49ers again at 54 when Brocke Stepteau found Johnson driving to the basket for a layup with 9:08 remaining. The 49ers responded immediately with an 10-0 surge to take control for good at 64-54 with 4:51 left.

Hawai’i never got closer than nine the rest of the way, and the 49ers stretched the lead in the final three minutes.

“This group, its tough because they want to keep playing,” Ganot said. “That’s the beauty of their game sometimes, the heartache and the great moments. And we fought hard today, we had some adversity we had to go through, but the fight was always there, 100 percent, and it has been all year with our limited depth, and things we were going through. Through all that we went into the final week of the year confident in third place with a chance to, final weekend of the year, be back-to-back top three finishes which never happened in conference affiliation for our program. That’s incredible for a group that had one-point per game returning (from last season).”

Ogalue scored 16 points for the 49ers, and Yussuf added nine points and eight rebounds. In the last two games against Hawai’i, Yussuf scored 32 points and shot 13 for 13 from the field.

“We didn’t get it done tonight but that’s life,” Ganot said. “I think we’ll handle it well as we have all year.”

CLICK HERE to view boxscore

(Game photos courtesy Warren Haraki)

CLICK HERE to view photo gallery

Big West Conference Tournament
Thursday’s Quarterfinal Results
No. 3 Cal State Fullerton 81, No. 6 CSUN 68
No. 2 UC Davis 66, No. 7 Cal Poly 55
No. 1 UC Irvine 76, No. 8 UC Riverside
No. 4 Long Beach State 73, No. 5 Hawai’i 62

Friday’s Semifinal Games
No. 1 UC Irvine vs. No. 4 Long Beach State, 6:30 p.m. (4:30 p.m. Hawai’i time)
No. 2 UC Davis vs. No. 3 Cal State Fullerton, 9:00 p.m.

Saturday’s Championship Game
Semifinal winners, 8:30 p.m. (6:30 p.m. Hawai’i time)

5 Comments

  1. Ganot you gotta recruit or make room for D1 transfers. Next season Real Season One for Eran to get that 28-6 NCAA team. Need better guard and big players. BigWest athletes.
    Good effort by team. Overachieved this year..24 win season next year? Team gets better and better bench. I thought Warriors had chance to go NCAA again..Not enough horses.

  2. If Jack Purchase was healthy and making his 3s this might be a different story. I guess you can say wasn’t meant to be but still good that this team at least had a chance to play in the tournament instead of being banned. This experience will help the young guys for next year. Definitely need more depth, especially in the post. Long Beach exposed UH around the basket and even if UH won, it would be rough going again vs. UC Irvine bigs. On to next year!!!

  3. Disappointed that they lost but still gotta consider this year a success after what the NCAA did to us. It could have been worse when you think about the last time UH got hit with violations. I think we had only 2 wins the next year. We got a good coaching staff and team and they made do with what they had. The future can only be brighter from here on out with most of the players returning and 3 scholarships available for next year.

    I would hope that in the future UH will not spread open the aloha mat to the NCAA to walk right through our house because of minor infractions. Handle matters yourself. Like the Feds—we don’t need to call them in to handle every little problem we have here in Hawaii. Because the damage the NCAA did to our program is colossal when you consider the team we had lined up. We had final four caliber talent if you add in Isaac Fotu, Sammis Reyes, and Negus Webster Chan. No sense dwelling on the past but we need to learn from our mistakes. Otherwise we will end up in the same situation again and the UH basketball program will never realize its full potential.

  4. In essence, our loss was a microcosm of this entire season in general. Some ups and downs but in the end disappointment and wondering “What could have been…”. Even down to the players performances…highly reflective of the entire season in general. Some reflection and thoughts…

    -If all eligible players would have returned this season, both the regular and post-season would have been ours for the taking…hands down
    -The NCAA did us no favors this season. They lifted the post-season ban at the last minute, but let’s be honest, the damage was done. I’m glad some of the guys got their post-season feet wet and that should at least pay dividends next season
    -Did you guys know the game was at Long Beach St.’s home court? Heck, I couldn’t tell one bit! Although it’s weird how one player in particular seemed to have a lot of calls go his way…I’m not gonna name any names, but *cough* JERSEY RIPPER *cough*
    -Our bench shot 1 for 14 along with 2 for 7 from the charity stripe. That kind of bench support will not win you many games. Then going 11 for 21 as a team, nothing to write home about either

    Had everyone stayed I have no question we’d be playing for the championship. Better luck next year.

  5. Looking forward to next year. I enjoyed watching the team and individuals get better as a team during the year. We have a lot of needs to continue to grow. think we have first class coaches and with the some better guard play and another “go to” guy like Noah, we could dramatically improve next year.
    I was really impressed when it was pointed out in the paper how we needed to do better busting the press and denying Long Beach’s inside game that within a few days we did exactly that. It didn’t hold up in the second half but you could tell from our transition points and denying Yusaf (spelling?) the opportunity to score, in the first half that we have a very teachable squad and capable coaches. Give the coaching staff credit. I believe that brought out the best in each of our players and the team.

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