Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

UPDATED: Warriors rebound at UC Irvine, 62-61, to end losing streak

After three weeks and five games of frustration, the University of Hawai’i basketball team finally got to experience the other side. The Rainbow Warriors ended a five-game losing streak with a hard-fought 62-61 victory at UC Irvine on Thursday at Irvine, Calif.

A crowd of 1,424 at the Bren Events Center were left stunned as the Warriors ended UCI’s five-game winning streak. Hawai’i improved to 14-10 overall and remained in sixth place in the Big West Conference at 5-6. The Anteaters dropped to 13-15 and 8-4.

Mike Thomas’ two free throws with 43.2 seconds remaining provided the final and decisive points, as it gave Hawai’i a 62-59 lead.

UCI’s Tommy Rutherford made a basket in the post to cut the UH lead to 62-61, and the Anteaters got possession of the ball in the closing seconds. However, they appeared to lose track of the clock, and called a timeout with 0.4 seconds remaining. A desperation 3-point attempt by UCI’s Eyassu Worku on the ensuing inbounds play did not come close.

“We hung in there when they made their runs,” Hawai’i head coach Eran Ganot said during a post-game radio interview on ESPN 1420 AM. “I just thought the resolve of this group … they’re sharing a special moment, as you can imagine, in the locker room right now – one that they deserve.”

Sheriff Drammeh and Gibson Johnson scored 13 points each, and Mike Thomas had 10 points and seven rebounds to lead the Hawai’i effort. Brocke Stepteau added eight points and four assists, and Drew Buggs had eight points and six rebounds.

The Warriors won despite shooting 35.2 percent from the field (19 for 54), including a head-scratching 12.5 percent (3 for 24) in the second half.

Ganot said the second half shooting “might be the worst I’ve seen in a half, and 0 for 8 (from 3-point range). But obviously we did a good job being physical, and (shot) strong at the (free throw) line.”

Indeed, Hawai’i out-rebounded UCI, 37-36. The Anteaters entered the game as the Big West’s top rebounding team, and were out-rebounding opponents by nearly 10 boards per game.

“Man, we were going through a tough stretch,” Gibson Johnson said during a post-game interview on the ESPN3 video stream. “We’ve been pretty soft in these last five games, and that’s not a characteristic of our team. We wanted to prove that we’re tough. UC Irvine is probably the toughest group, as a team, in our conference, so for us to battle through this was big for us.”

The Warriors also went 20 for 24 on free throws, including 17 for 20 in the crucial second half. Drammeh (6 for 6), Stepteau (3 for 3) and Buggs (2 for 2) were perfect, and Thomas went 8 for 11.

UCI shot 42.3 percent from the field, including just 15 percent (3 for 20) from 3-point range. The Anteaters also went 14 for 19 from the free-throw line.

Ganot said the victory had more to do with preparation and confidence. “You could see the look again, you could see the swagger, you could see the confidence, you could see the effort,” he said. “And to do that on the road in this place, the way (UCI has) been playing and the way we’ve been playing, (we) deserve it.”

It also helped to have a hot start. Hawai’i raced to a 13-6 lead in the first five minutes of the game, and stayed in front the rest of the first half. A 3-pointer by Stepteau gave the Warriors a 32-22 lead with 4:59 remaining in the half.

Hawai’i eventually took a 39-32 lead at intermission with Johnson scoring all 13 of his points, and Drammeh adding nine in the first half. The Warriors shot 53.3 percent from the field in the first half, including 44.4 percent (4 for 9) from 3-point range.

The Anteaters caught the Warriors midway through the second half, and had a short-lived 56-55 lead with 5:07 remaining.

Hawai’i pulled out the victory despite not making a field goal in the game’s final 7:29. Given the circumstances heading into the game, Ganot said the only statistic that mattered on Thursday was the final score.

“I don’t know if I recognized us and I had a lot to do with that,” Ganot said of the team’s losing streak. “I did not put our guys in a situation to succeed in that stretch. I’m so proud of them to stick together like they have. It’s a special moment right now and we have to build off it.”

Tommy Rutherford led the Anteaters with 13 points and nine rebounds. Hawai’i and UCI will meet again next week in Honolulu.

The Warriors will remain on the road this week, and will play at UC Riverside on Saturday. The Highlanders (7-18, 2-9) upset the Warriors last week in Honolulu.

“If we bring that intensity we brought tonight, I like our odds,” Johnson said.

CLICK HERE to view boxscore

(Game photos courtesy Warren Haraki)

CLICK HERE to view photo gallery

Thursday’s Results
UC Davis 92, at Cal Poly 84 (3 OT)
UC Santa Barbara 80, at Long Beach State 70
Hawai’i 62, at UC Irvine 61

Saturday’s Games
UC Davis at UC Santa Barbara
CSUN at Cal State Fullerton
UC Irvine at Cal Poly
Hawai’i at UC Riverside, 5:30 p.m. HT


  1. Good bounce back win. Irvine second place team. Some calls last few minutes really wild. Oh well, warriors just as well could have lost it by one. However they hit their Key Free throws down the line, and won it… clutch.
    Yes the bigwest regular season title out of reach, looks like UCSB will get that auto NIT invite, UH like years past.. if they win BigWest Tournament they are in NCAA’s..Purchase,..has to get some offense going, or rebound defend.. at least go inside too..
    Riverside.. that looks like a Trap game.. they despite being at the Bottom, won at CSUN on the road.. Probably, Warriors will play well again. .. I notice on the road, UH if they hit double digit leads in second half .. they will win.. the other teams have that lead.. in Cali. warriors lose
    Key , UH has to get out fast to big leads and make free throws to win..
    Riverside.. playing well on ONE game winning streak. look forward to that game.. bet it will be a fun one !

  2. see what happens this Saturday… it could be a Davis vs Hawaii or Irvine vs Hawaii first round matchup in the first round of the Bigwest tournament, it is coming up fast.. 5 more games, 2 at home, UH has to win maybe go 4-1 rest of the way, they should be in good shape.. they lose at Riverside and the last 2 road games, will be tough.
    Go Bows Warriors.. Ganot get out and recruit !

  3. Woohoo! I called this the other day. Ganot and Co. always seem to come up big when the fans are ready to give up on them. Of course the other problem is they come up small when the fans are starting build back up. Need to work on that part and just win out the rest of the way, all the way to NCAAs!

  4. ChuckCheese was right on the Bows winning.
    Mike made the last 4 pts with his FT’s. In the 7 point sequence before, Ziggy scored on a basket, Mike made 1 other FT plus Drew and Sheriff made 2 each.
    Surprise that Rutherford missed a FT near the end.

  5. Way to bounce back Warriors. Hell of an ugly second half/ending to the game but at least they pulled out the W. What I enjoyed most is the non-biased reffing and non-homer announcers. Also, the team made FT’s!!! MT came through in the clutch! Great win guys, now carry this momentum into Saturday and return the favor to our UCR friends!! Let’s GO BOWS!!!!

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