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UPDATED: UCLA blows past Warriors, 80-61

LOS ANGELES — Just a few miles down the road from international shopping mecca Rodeo Drive, host UCLA got to show the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team what the “high-end” of its sport looks like up close and personal Wednesday night.

Junior guard Prince Ali scored a game-high 23 points — including 5-of-6 shooting from 3-point range — and grabbed five rebounds and Kris Wilkes added 16 points to help the Bruins blow past the Warriors, 80-61, in non-conference action at refurbished and sparkling Pauley Pavilion.

A “Welcome Home” crowd of 6,062 also watched Moses Brown contribute 11 points and seven boards as UCLA bounced back from last week’s losses to Michigan State and North Carolina in Las Vegas to improve to 5-2. Reserve center Owen Hulland scored 14 points and Jack Purchase and Brocke Stepteau each added 10 points for UH, which dropped its third straight game in falling to 4-4.

The Bruins jumped out to leads of 6-0, 11-3 and 18-5 in the first five minutes and were never seriously threatened. The Warriors mounted a 10-2 run and closed it to 20-15 on Hulland’s layup with 12:09 remaining in the first half, but UCLA roared back with a 15-1 surge emphatically capped by Brown’s slam dunk off an alley-oop assist from Ali to make it 35-16 with 6:27 left.

Hulland answered with a 3-pointer from the right wing and then a driving layup to cut it to 35-21 with 4:38 remaining, but the Bruins responded with an 8-2 run culminating in Chris Smith’s 3-pointer from the right wing to put them ahead, 43-23 with 1:47 left en route to a 45-26 halftime lead.

“Give them credit — they shot the ball well, and we had some lapses .. they set the tone early, and this time they set it with their shooting,” Hawai’i coach Eran Ganot said. “Our guys had to weather the storm early, but when you have some lapses and they get some good shots, they make you pay. And when they get more comfortable when you start defending well, they make you pay. Credit them, but we can’t afford those (lapses) in a game like this.”

Facing a height disadvantage against UCLA’s front line of Wilkes (6 feet, 8 inches tall), Cody Riley (6-9) and Brown (7-1), the Warriors opened the game in a 2-3 zone defense that ended up giving Ali and others more room to shoot. Ali, a dazzling 6-foot-4 guard who can also score off the dribble and elevate for high-flying dunks, made his first eight field goal attempts and the Bruins shot a blistering 56.7 percent (17 for 30) overall in the first half.

“(UCLA) is the biggest team in the country,” Ganot said. “And not just because of their size inside, but they’re bigger across the board — their perimeter guys, their wings … so they had a lot of stuff where they shot over the top of us. They got a little bit with transition … It’s tough when you have a team that shoots it like they do, and the kind of size and at times there’s a mismatch inside. So we tried to give support as much we could inside, and they were able to open up the floor by hitting some 3’s. Credit them — it’s a ‘pick your posion’ kind of thing sometimes with these kind of teams. And then when you play them straight up, and they have 6-6, 6-8 at the 2 and the 3 (positions), and your hand is there, they can shoot over the top.

“I thought they did a good job opening up the floor with the way they shot it early.”

UH closed it to 49-31 on Samuta Avea’s 3-pointer from the right wing with 17:29 remaining, but the Bruins again responded with a 13-4 run to push the lead to 62-35 after Riley’s slam dunk with 13:23 left, and the Warriors could not get closer than 16 points the rest of the way.

“We know they’re a good team, they have good players, big recruits,” Purchase said. “We didn’t get a hand to their shooters, they came out hard, they went 7 for 10 (on 3-point goals) to start the game, so that hurt us. Playing from behind against a team like that hurt us. We locked in on the scout and I felt we knew their plays, but (not) getting hands to their shooters, that’s what hurts.”

Offensively, Hawai’i struggled from the field overall (23 of 64, 35.9 percent) and from 3-point range in particular (9 for 31, 29 percent), and only got to the free throw line seven times (making six).

One bright spot was Hulland, a 7-foot freshman from Adelaide, Australia who saw only limited action in the Warriors’ first seven games. Wednesday night, he produced a team-high 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including a 3-point shot, was 3-for-3 from the free throw line and grabbed four rebounds in 17 minutes of floor time.

“It’s a tough loss for us … I thought today really opened up for me, I got a lot more minutes, felt like I had an opportunity and was able to perform,” Hulland said. “It was really great going against one of top-ranked recruits in the nation (Brown), I felt like I had an opportunity to prove what I could do on the court against a really good player, so I just went for it.”

Another positive takeaway was the Warriors’ fighting spirit, which did not waver even when they were down by 27 points with over 13 minutes remaining. They fought back and later closed it to 75-59 after Hulland’s putback with 4:49 remaining.

“We’re never gonna quit, that’s something about this team that I love,” Purchase said. “We’re never going to quit, we’re always going to play hard, we’re always going to fight. Tonight, we showed that a little bit, we had a little run and if we made a couple more shots it could have been a closer game. We just have to get back to our game and get back to practice.”

Ganot said complete effort for all 40 minutes — regardless of the score — is an expectation.

“It’s going to be a hallmark of our program, I think you see that all the time,” Ganot said. “I wish we didn’t get down 25 or 20 and all those things, but I think the difference in the game was the way we started the first half and started the second half. I thought we actually could have clawed back quicker in the second half if we made some of those open shots. But again you have to give them credit, that’s a heckuva team, and a heckuva challenge.”

CLICK HERE to view boxscore

(Game photos courtesy Warren Haraki)

CLICK HERE to view photo gallery

Upcoming Schedule (all at Stan Sheriff Center)
December 8: vs. Hawai’i-Hilo, 7:00 p.m.
December 16: vs. Mississippi Valley State, 5:00 p.m.
December 22: vs. UNLV (Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic), Noon
December 23: Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, TBA
December 25: Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, TBA
December 29: vs. Alabama A&M, 7:00 p.m.

3 Comments

  1. The road trip actually good for the Bows. The win over Utah a P5 conference member helps. The losses to Seton Hall and Fresno will help them. And losing to Pac12 contender UCLA no disgrace. However, this next 7 game homestand, I think Hawaii could get 7 wins. DHC looks like No top 15 team in the field . First time very winnable . Look for UH to play with a lot of confidence and get better and better. the 3 seven foot freshman by end of year will create a lot of fouls to give. they rebound and protect the paint, with the Aussie frosh stretch 5 hitting some threes. UH can win the BWC. There is potential. Or am I being unrealistic. Think the guys ignore these posts. So up to Eran and team just gear up to make NIT or NCAA. Anything less would be a letdown after year 4. Eran keep on upgrading talent and program. Play Avea more… bring out a few more fans that is for sure. Go Bows !!

  2. The next two games against Hilo and Mississippi Valley are easy wins so maybe this is a good plan schedule. The Bows can recover from this beatdown at UCLA and get back on track. UCLA is the best team we will see all year, so I don’t expect any more big losses like this one.

  3. Good moves to score by Colina and Hulland.
    Niko can be seen at the ending part of the video.

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