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UPDATED: Warriors fall out of first place after falling to Fullerton, 69-66

Cal State Fullerton guard Kyle Allman, Jr., rained a 40-point shower on Hawai’i’s first-place parade Saturday night, leading the Titans to a 69-66 road upset in yet another thrilling Big West Conference men’s basketball contest.

A spirited “Green-Out” crowd of 6,869 at the Stran Sheriff Center watched Mike Thomas score 26 points and grab six rebounds and Jack Purchase add 11 points as the Warriors fell to 13-6 overall and 4-2 in the Big West. Cal State Fullerton improved to 12-8, 5-3.

UH, which started the night on a four-game win streak and sitting alone atop the league standings, dropped all the way down to fourth place behind Long Beach State (6-2), UC Davis (5-2) and UC Santa Barbara (5-2).

“It’ll sting,” Thomas said of the narrow loss. “Especially when we were up (almost) the whole game. We kind of let it slip and it was little things the entire game. It’s tough.”

The Warriors held a 41-35 lead after a closely contested first half and extended it to 50-39 after a 9-2 run capped by Thomas’ layup with 13:29 remaining. But the Titans — led by Allman raining down shots from all over — clawed back and eventually took the lead at 67-65 on Jackson Rowe’s fastbreak layup with 1:46 left.

That’s how the score remained when Hawai’i gained possession with just over a half minute remaining.

Drew Buggs was fouled on a layup attempt with 12.1 ticks left, but missed his first free throw before making the second to close it to 67-66. Austen Awosika then sank both ends of a 1-and-1 on the other end to make it 69-66 one second later, and Buggs’ 3-point attempt just before the final horn was short and off the mark, with Rowe securing the rebound to seal the victory.

“Credit to Fullerton,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said. “Give them credit for coming in here and finishing that game. I think that was a key stretch, when we were up 11, we even talked about it in the huddle. This was a key time for us to handle success, and in retrospect, I don’t know if we could have handled it worse in terms the turnovers, bad shots and lapses defensively. We take pride in being a defensive program, but … we’ve got an issue there.

“And you’re only as good as your last game, so we are not good defensively.”

Throughout the first half, the game-within-the-game centered around offensive fireworks courtesy of Allman and Thomas, a 6-foot-7 power forward who entered the evening leading the team with an average of 12.3 points per game.

Thomas exploded for 14 points in the first 10 minutes Saturday night, including two rare 3-pointers from the top of the key. He entered the game 0 for 11 from 3-point range for this season, but went 2 for 2 against the Titans.

Allman, a 6-3 shooting guard, began the day as the league’s third-leading scorer at 17.7 ppg.

He started Saturday’s game innocently enough with one basket in the first eight minutes, then had a fast break layup followed by a 3-pointer from the right corner to erase a five-point UH lead and tie the score at 17-17 with 11:13 remaining in the first half.

Allmän later hit a jumper from just inside the top of the key followed by a 3-pointer from the left wing to put Cal State Fullerton ahead, 30-28, at the six-minute mark.

The Warriors responded with a 7-0 run capped by Johnson’s reverse layup off a nifty feed from freshman reserve Samuta Avea to give Hawai’i a 35-30 lead with 3:41 left. The Warriors were able to maintain the lead until halftime, and headed into the locker room up, 41-35.

By then, Thomas had 20 points and Allman 19.

UH then began the second half with the 11-4 run capped by Thomas’ layup that made it 50-39 with 13:29 remaining, but that is when the Warriors began to cool down and Allman starting getting hot again.

“We struggled to get stops the entire, game, but our offense was able to sustain it in the first half,” Thomas said. “We came out hot in the second half, but then maintaining it was just an issue for us. It wasn’t like a big shift — more like, one team’s fire had to be put out.”

Unfortunately for Hawai’i, it wasn’t the Titans.

Allman began the comeback with a traditional three-point play 14 seconds later, then drained a 3-pointer from the right wing to close it to 52-47 with 11:13 left. His layup at the six-minute mark cut it to 61-57, and then Allman his another 3-pointer from the left wing to narrow it to 65-64 with 2:49 still to play.

Allman finished game an amazing 16 of 19 (84.2 percent) from the field, including 5 of 6 (83.3 percent) from 3-point range. His 40 points was one point short of the Stan Sheriff Center record for a UH opoonent (Josh Akognon of Cal State Fullerton scored 41 in 2008).

“Obviously give respect to him, and to them,” Ganot said. “But we’re always going to say, ‘What can we do better?’ At the end of the day, we go back home and say, ‘What can we do better do help our team? What can I do better?’ That’s a good way to live, in my opinion. I don’t want our team continually tipping our hats to people — I want us to compete and get the job done.

“So I think from a defensive standpoint, it’s something we need to work on. We haven’t had that … but one of the reasons they’re good is, there’s not many guys you can leave, they have a lot of dynamic scorers. And there were some tough shots he hit, but when a guy gets into a rhythm like that … a combination of that, and our lack of execution offensively, was tough.”

Purchase’s tip-in with 3:51 remaining was UH’s only field goal in the final 4 minutes, 40 seconds.

Meanwhile, Cal State Fullerton took advantage of a missed field goal by Leland Green with just under two minutes to play and Allman threw a long lead pass to Rowe, who converted the transition fast break layup for the go-ahead basket with 1:46 left.

“That’s a lapse, that’s ridiculous,” Ganot said. “Outlet, throw ahead, transition layup. That’s the emotion of the game, we’ll watch that. But you can’t hang your head, make or miss. You gotta get back and build your wall, and that was maybe the biggest play in the game.”

Just prior to the Warriors’ last possession, Ganot inserted Purchase, who had swished 3 of 5 attempts from beyond the arc. But Purchase was covered and passed to Buggs, who missed on the potential game-tying 3-pointer.

“They did a good job staying with (Purchase),” Ganot said. “It’s disappointing loss, and it’s a humbling life. You learn the hard way, and you gotta continue to respond. I expect our guys to respond, as we have. But there’s no denying that this one hurt.”

The loss brought a rare four-game, 18-day homestead to a close and UH will now hit the road again for road games at UC Santa Barbara on Thursday and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Saturday.

CLICK HERE to view boxscore

(Game photos courtesy Chris Kadooka and Matt Osumi)

CLICK HERE to view photo gallery

Big West Conference
Saturday’s Results

at UC Davis 80, Cal Poly 56
UC Santa Barbara 76, at UC Riverside 69
Long Beach State 70, at CSUN 66
Cal State Fullerton 69, at Hawai’i 66

Wednesday’s Games
UC Riverside at Cal Poly
UC Irvine at Long Beach State

Thursday’s Games
Hawai’i at UC Santa Barbara
UC Davis at CSUN

6 Comments

  1. Those are always tough losses. You could feel the momentum change.

    Bows need to be aware of a hot shooter and shut him down by double teaming.

    Tough lesson hopefully learned.

    I feel the team will regroup and be hungry to go into ucsb and

    Try to take them out of their game. They need to get into beast mode!

  2. Curious on the status of Justin Hemsley.. is he red shirting or active?

  3. ^^^ I’m pretty sure he is redshirt, except I see him in his jersey and warming up with the rest of the team during games. He has not played in any games this year so don’t make sense to play him now.

  4. ” Freshman forward Justin Hemsley will redshirt the season, UH coach Eran Ganot said this week. … ” ( SAdvertiser, Dec 9 2017)

    He turned 18 years of age in Oct of 2017.

  5. Season high turnstile count was at Fullerton game, 5,778 .

  6. Thanks for the info

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