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UPDATED: Warriors defend home court, beat Cal Poly, 57-45

Back home and back to its core value, Hawai’i flexed its defensive muscle Wednesday night and pulled away from stubborn Cal Poly, 57-45, in gritty Big West Conference men’s basketball action.

A loyal, appreciative midweek crowd of 5,189 (tickets issued) at the Stan Sheriff Center watched Mike Thomas produce a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds and Sheriff Drammeh add 13 points and six boards as the Warriors improved to 11-5 overall, 2-1 in the Big West. The Mustangs fell to 6-11, 1-2.

“Pretty simple statement — defense,” UH coach Eran Ganot said, opening up his post-game interview. “That was the deal. That’s been the deal, that’s the way it’s gonna be if we’re gonna be any good. Defense and rebounding go hand-in-hand, and we’ve got to get our turnover issue (14) under control, and our free throw shooting (16 of 28, 57.1 percent). But you can overcome a lot of things when you defend and rebound.”

The Warriors’ stout defensive effort, which included a season-low 22 points allowed in the second half — came six days after a disappointing 89-81 loss at Long Beach State in their conference opener.

Sicne that loss, Hawai’i is 2-0 while holding both CSUN and Cal Poly below 50 points. It is the first time since the 2008-09 season that the Warriors have won back-to-back games while holding opponents under 50 points. Ganot was an assistant coach under Bob Nash on that 2008-09 UH team.

“I think our guys responded well after (that loss at Long Beach), they took it personally, and really imposed their will on that end (tonight),” Ganot said. “I’m just proud of them in that regard, I think that’s the biggest thing. This was even more of a threat with the way Cal Poly can spread you out and their 3-point shooting … I thought they didn’t get many good 3-point looks, they were well-contested.”

The Mustangs finished an abysmal 3 for 19 (15.8 percent) from 3-point range, and were just 18 of 56 (32.1 percent) on field goal percentage overall. Cal Poly made 19 3-pointers in its previous game against Cal State Fullerton, and entered the Hawai’i game leading the Big West with an average of 9.3 made 3-pointers per game.

Hawai’i also out-rebounded Cal Poly, 39-28, including a 34-24 advantage on the defensive glass.

“It was just the way I like it against them,” said Thomas, a fifth-year senior forward. “I feel like every time we play Cal Poly, it’s tough, it’s gritty playing against those guys inside. I’ve been here five years now, so it’s a personal thing for me.”

It was the second consecutive double-double and fourth of the season for Thomas. He shot 7 for 8 from the field, and is 36 for 43 (83.7 percent) from the field in the last five games.

The Warriors jumped out to a 7-0 lead and it was 10-2 after Brocke Stepteau drained a 3-pointer from the left wing about five minutes into the game. The Mustangs woke up, though, and answered with a 14-5 run capped by Jakub Niziol’s fadeaway jumper inside the right elbow that cut UH’s lead to 15-14 with 5:35remaining in the first half.

The teams then traded baskets until Thomas broke a 21-21 tie with a layup two minutes before intermission to help UH finish with an 8-2 run and a 29-23 lead at the break.

“Basically we just wanted to come out and set the tone defensively, just like we did in the last game (a 65-46 victory at Cal State Northridge),” Drammeh said. “Keeping it at a low score was OK with us, (because) they’re a high-scoring team. Last game (a 101-97 loss to Cal State Fullerton) they almost scored 100 points, so keeping it low-scoring was to our advantage.”

The Warriors then started the second half with a 10-5 surge to push the lead to 39-28, but Josh Martin capped a 7-0 counter run by Cal Poly with a jump hook to close it to 39-35 with 11:41 remaining.

In the meantime, Hawai’i starting post Gibson Johnson was twice sent to the bench — once after picking up his third foul less than three minutes into the second half, and then again after being whistled for his fourth foul with 10:45 still left to play.

Fortunately, reserve post Ido Flaisher and then fellow reserve Zigmars Raimo each came in to compete defensively and help maintain the lead until Johnson returned. Johnson finished with five points and eight rebounds in 13 minutes.

“Zigmars — even in the two games prior — he doesn’t fill up the stat sheet but he gave us a presence,” Ganot said. “He plays hard … We need everybody, and everybody’s gotta be ready when their number is called. That’s just the deal. Zigmars has done a phenomenal job, (because) for a long stretch he didn’t really play. But (then) he gives us a chance late against Long Beach and then he played really well against Northridge.”

Cal Poly still hung around and Marcellus Garrick’s 3-pointer with 2:31 left cut the Warriors’ lead to 49-43. But Thomas answered with a layup at the 2-minute mark to make it 51-43 and help UH close out the game with an 8-2 run.

Cal Poly guards Victor Joseph (11 points) and Donovan Fields (eight points) combined for 19 points on 7 for 21 shooting, including 1 for 6 from 3-point range. They entered the game averaging a combined 29 points per game.

The Warriors return to action at 8 p.m. Saturday against visiting UC Santa Barbara (12-4, 1-1).

“Big game — they’re all big games,” Ganot said. “There are 16 (Big West) games (for each team) and they all count the same, as we jockey for position in our league. So we’re gonna have to learn from tonight, get back to work and anticipate a great crowd Saturday. I think our guys deserve that, and our fans usually step up.”

CLICK HERE to view boxscore

(Game photos courtesy Chris Kadooka)

CLICK HERE to view photo gallery

Big West Conference
Wednesday’s Results

at Long Beach State 80, CSUN 70
at Hawai’i 57, Cal Poly 45

Thursday’s Results
UC Davis 75, at UC Riverside 65
Cal State Fullerton 67, at UC Irvine 64

Saturday’s Games
Long Beach State at UC Riverside
UC Davis at Cal State Fullerton
UC Irvine at CSUN
UC Santa Barbara at Hawai’i, 8:00 p.m.

6 Comments

  1. Highest praise from the coach for his team, ‘… pretty game … defensively ..’.
    Go Bows !

  2. The defense has been impressive. I notice that they do not try to block too many shots or gamble for steals. They just stick with their man and put a hand in the face. As the coach said, it is not the most pretty thing to watch but it is very effective. Good fundamentals on defense.

  3. The coach didn’t say it is not the most pretty thing to watch. At 51 sec., the coach says, “..People will say perhaps it wasn’t not the prettiest game”, and then the coach adds in correction, “… but it sure the hell was defensively.”

  4. That’s high praise from the coach. And that’s nice to hear.

  5. I have been reading the posts recently, or should I say lack of them in both quantity or quality. It’s like everyone is waiting on next year and giving our team a pass with a few pats on the back. No comment about Mate Colina on the bench Thursday. We haven’t seen a guy with that kind of build in recent times. Hope he will get use to our system this spring and become a real contributor as a freshman next year. As for this year, it was like a Christmas present unwrapped the way we have played since the end of the year. Can’t wait for Long Beach so we can give them a real spanking when they come to Hawaii. I have always enjoyed the insightful remarks that everyone makes and comments on. Get on your basketball shoes and let’s talk some basketball. If you don’t want to talk about UH, how about the other Big West teams? Any comment on US Santa Barbara? Come on, I’m going to sleep.

  6. UCSB’s leading scorer is soph 6-2 G Max Heidegger, 21.6 pts per game avg.
    18.5 in 2 conference games.

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